Contrasting patterns of body shape and neutral genetic divergence in marine and lake populations of threespine sticklebacks

J Evol Biol. 2006 Nov;19(6):1803-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2006.01182.x.


Comparisons of neutral marker and quantitative trait divergence can provide important insights into the relative roles of natural selection and neutral genetic drift in population differentiation. We investigated phenotypic and genetic differentiation among Fennoscandian threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) populations, and found that the highest degree of differentiation occurred between sea and freshwater habitats. Within habitats, morphological divergence was highest among the different freshwater populations. Pairwise phenotypic and neutral genetic distances among populations were positively correlated, suggesting that genetic drift may have contributed to the morphological differentiation among habitats. On the other hand, the degree of phenotypic differentiation (PST) clearly surpassed the neutral expectation set by FST, suggesting a predominant role for natural selection over genetic drift as an explanation for the observed differentiation. However, separate PST/FST comparisons by habitats revealed that body shape divergence between lake and marine populations, and even among marine populations, can be strongly influenced by natural selection. On the other hand, genetic drift can play an important role in the differentiation among lake populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Fresh Water
  • Genetics, Population
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries
  • Seawater
  • Smegmamorpha / anatomy & histology
  • Smegmamorpha / genetics*