, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 685-689
Date: 20 Apr 2013

Wave-induced abiotic stress shapes phenotypic diversity in a coral reef fish across a geographical cline

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While morphological variation across geographical clines has been well documented, it is often unclear whether such changes enhance individual performance to local environments. We examined whether the damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus display functional changes in swimming phenotype across a 40-km cline in wave-driven water motion on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. A. polyacanthus populations displayed strong intraspecific variation in swimming morphology and performance that matched local levels of water motion: individuals on reefs subject to high water motion displayed higher aspect-ratio fins and faster swimming speeds than conspecifics on sheltered reefs. Remarkably, intraspecific variation within A. polyacanthus spanned over half the diversity seen among closely related damselfish species from the same region. We find that local selection driven by wave-induced abiotic stress is an overarching ecological mechanism shaping the inter- and intraspecific locomotor diversity of coral reef fishes.

Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Stephen Swearer