Differences in locomotor behavior correspond to different patterns of morphological selection in two species of waterfall-climbing gobiid fishes

Abstract

Behavior plays an important role in mediating relationships between morphology and performance in animals and, thus, can influence how selection operates. However, to what extent can the use of specific behaviors be associated with particular types of selection on morphological traits? Laboratory selection analyses on waterfall-climbing gobiid fishes were performed to investigate how behavioral variations in locomotion can affect patterns of linear and nonlinear morphological selection. Species from sister genera (Sicyopterus stimpsoni and Sicydium punctatum) that use different climbing behaviors were exposed to similar artificial waterfalls to simulate a controlled selective regime involving the climbing of a nearly vertical slope against flowing water. Juvenile S. stimpsoni “inch up” waterfalls by alternate attachment of oral and pelvic suckers with little axial or fin movement, leading to straightforward expectations that climbing selection should favor morphologies that improve drag reduction and substrate adhesion. In contrast, juvenile S. punctatum climb using substantial axial and fin movements, complicating expectations for selection patterns and potentially promoting correlational selection. Comparisons of directional, quadratic and correlational selection coefficients for various morphological traits and trait interactions indicated that these species showed different selection patterns that generally fit these predictions. Both directional and correlational selection patterns were different between the species, and on average were stronger in S. punctatum compared to S. stimpsoni. Stronger selection in S. punctatum may be related to its climbing style that requires more integrated movement of the fins and body axis than S. stimpsoni, promoting dynamic interactions among body regions within a complicated hydrodynamic environment.

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Acknowledgments

We thank J. Husak, M. Ptacek and anonymous reviewers for feedback on earlier manuscript drafts; C. Martin for helpful feedback on selection analyses; M. Childress for advice on statistics; A. James, N. Ostler, S. DeWalt, K. Ickes, J. Hains and B. Taylor for assistance in Dominica; and R. Nishimoto, L. Nishiura, T. Sakihara, T. Shimoda, T. Shindo, and D. Kuamo’o for assistance in Hawai’i. Funding was provided by the Clemson Department of Biological Sciences and NSF (IOS-0817794, IOS-0817911). Methodology was reviewed and approved by the Clemson University IACUC (Protocols 40061 and 50056).

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Correspondence to Sandy M. Kawano.

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Kawano, S.M., Bridges, W.C., Schoenfuss, H.L. et al. Differences in locomotor behavior correspond to different patterns of morphological selection in two species of waterfall-climbing gobiid fishes. Evol Ecol 27, 949–969 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-012-9621-z

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Keywords

  • Behavior
  • Ecomorphology
  • Fish
  • Linear selection
  • Nonlinear selection