University of Oulu

Sowersby, W., Lehtonen, T.K., Ravinet, M. et al. Resource trait specialisation in an introduced fish population with reduced genetic diversity. Biol Invasions 22, 2447–2460 (2020).

Resource trait specialisation in an introduced fish population with reduced genetic diversity

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Author: Sowersby, Will1,2; Lehtonen, Topi K.1,3,4; Ravinet, Mark5,6;
Organizations: 1School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
2Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
3Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
4Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Division of Population Genetics, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Japan
6Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
7Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, Madrid, Spain
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-04-30


Ecological specialisation is hypothesised to play a major role in the evolution of phenotypic diversity, especially following the colonisation of novel habitats. For example, cichlid fishes provide some of the most remarkable evidence for rapid ecological diversification. Here, we capitalised on a recently (≤ 40 years ago) introduced population of red devils (Amphilophus labiatus) in Australia to investigate adaptive phenotypic responses to a novel environment. We used stomach content analyses, morphometrics and laboratory experiments to test for covariation between diet and size of an important trophic trait, lip size. We found that, while maximum lip size in the study population was smaller than in the species’ natural range, the proportions of algae, insects and fish remains in the diet covaried with lip size. However, contrary to predictions, we found no evidence for lip development to be plastic under laboratory conditions in relation to substrate complexity or food manipulation, nor did we find any relationship between lip morphology and feeding performance in adults. Single nucleotide polymorphism data, in turn, suggested that the introduced population has reduced standing genetic variation, which potentially influences both phenotypic plasticity and diversity, in comparison to native populations. Together, the results suggest that morphological variation in a key trophic trait can respond rapidly to diet in a novel environment, despite reduced genetic diversity in the population.

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Series: Biological invasions
ISSN: 1387-3547
ISSN-E: 1573-1464
ISSN-L: 1387-3547
Volume: 22
Pages: 2447 - 2460
DOI: 10.1007/s10530-020-02264-y
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by a Holsworth Wildlife Endowment, and a Linnean Society of New South Wales Small Research Grant, both awarded to WS. The research also received support from the SYNTHESYS Project (, which is financed by European Community Research Infrastructure Action under the FP7 "Capacities" Program (to TKL and MB).
Copyright information: © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Biol Invasions. The final authenticated version is available online at