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. 2019 Oct 25;9(1):15378.
doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-51591-1.

Predation Risk Induces Age- And Sex-Specific Morphological Plastic Responses in the Fathead Minnow Pimephales Promelas

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Free PMC article

Predation Risk Induces Age- And Sex-Specific Morphological Plastic Responses in the Fathead Minnow Pimephales Promelas

Denis Meuthen et al. Sci Rep. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Although comprehending the significance of phenotypic plasticity for evolution is of major interest in biology, the pre-requirement for that, the understanding of variance in plasticity, is still in its infancy. Most researchers assess plastic traits at single developmental stages and pool results between sexes. Here, we study variation among sexes and developmental stages in inducible morphological defences, a well-known instance of plasticity. We raised fathead minnows, Pimephales promelas, under different levels of background predation risk (conspecific alarm cues or distilled water) in a split-clutch design and studied morphology in both juveniles and adults. In accordance with the theory that plasticity varies across ontogeny and sexes, geometric morphometry analyses revealed significant shape differences between treatments that varied across developmental stages and sexes. Alarm cue-exposed juveniles and adult males developed deeper heads, deeper bodies, longer dorsal fin bases, shorter caudal peduncles and shorter caudal fins. Adult alarm cue-exposed males additionally developed a larger relative eye size. These responses represent putative adaptive plasticity as they are linked to reduced predation risk. Perhaps most surprisingly, we found no evidence for inducible morphological defences in females. Understanding whether similar variation occurs in other taxa and their environments is crucial for modelling evolution.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing interests.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
The 13 landmarks used for morphometric analyses in juvenile (a), adult male (b), and adult female (c) Pimephales promelas. Traditional morphometric equivalents are: standard length (1‒6), total length (1‒8), body depth (3‒10), dorsal fin base width (3‒4), caudal fin base height (5‒7), eye diameter (12‒13), head height (2‒11), and caudal peduncle length (4‒5). Size standards are displayed in the upper right of each figure.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Morphological differentiation along the fourth principal component (PC4, explaining 8.339% of phenotypic variation) of 18-day-old juvenile Pimephales promelas subject to different levels of perceived predation risk: distilled water (n = 100; white bar) and conspecific alarm cues (n = 100; dashed bar). Mean values ± SE as well as depictions of the deformation in body shape along the axis are shown. Schematic fins and eyes (gray) are included in these figures to better visualize measured changes in fin position and fin base width. The asterisk indicates p < 0.05.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Morphological differentiation along the sixth principal component (PC6, explaining 6.691% of phenotypic variation) of male and female 180-day-old adult Pimephales promelas subject to different levels of perceived predation risk: distilled water (male n = 72, female n = 57, white bars) and conspecific alarm cues (male n = 86, female n = 53, dashed bars). Mean values ± SE as well as depictions of the deformation in body shape along the axis are shown. Schematic fins and eyes (gray) are included in these figures to better visualize measured changes in fin position and fin base width. The topmost line above bars represents the interaction between sexes; asterisks denote statistically relevant differences **p < 0.01, *p < 0.1, ns p > 0.1.

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