Organisms well suited for the study of ecotype formation have wide distribution ranges, where they adapt to multiple drastically different habitats repeatedly over space and time. Here we study such ecotypes in a Crustacean model, Asellus aquaticus, a commonly occurring isopod found in freshwater habitats as diverse as streams, caves and lakes. Previous studies focusing on cave vs. surface ecotypes have attributed depigmentation, eye loss and prolonged antennae to several south European cave systems. Likewise, surveys across multiple Swedish lakes have identified the presence of dark-pigmented "reed" and light-pigmented "stonewort" ecotypes, which can be found within the same lake. In this study, we sequenced the first draft genome of A. aquaticus, and subsequently use this to map reads and call variants in surface stream, cave and two lake ecotypes. In addition, the draft genome was combined with a RADseq approach to perform a quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping study using a laboratory bred F2 and F4 cave × surface intercross. We identified genomic regions associated with body pigmentation, antennae length and body size. Furthermore, we compared genome-wide differentiation between natural populations and found several genes potentially associated with these habitats. The assessment of the cave QTL regions in the light-dark comparison of lake populations suggests that the regions associated with cave adaptation are also involved with genomic differentiation in the lake ecotypes. These demonstrate how troglomorphic adaptations can be used as a model for related ecotype formation.
Keywords: QTL mapping; cave colonization; divergence with-gene-flow; ecotype formation; reed lake habitat.
© 2021 The Authors. Molecular Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.