Adaptive Phenotypic Diversification along a Temperature-Depth Gradient
Jan Ohlberger et al. in The American Naturalist
Jan Ohlberger, Åke Brännström and Ulf Dieckmann
Theoretical models suggest that sympatric speciation along environmental gradients might be common in nature. Here we present the first data-based model of evolutionary diversification along a continuous environmental gradient. On the basis of genetic analyses, it has been suggested that a pair of coregonid fishes (Coregonus spp.) in a postglacial German lake originated by sympatric speciation. Within this lake, the two species segregate vertically and show metabolic adaptations to, as well as behavioral preferences for, correspondingly different temperatures. We test the plausibility of the hypothesis that this diversifying process has been driven by adaptations to different thermal microhabitats along the lake’s temperature-depth gradient. Using an adaptive-dynamics model that is calibrated with empirical data and allows the gradual evolution of a quantitative trait describing optimal foraging temperature, we show that under the specific environmental conditions in the lake, evolutionary branching of a hypothetical ancestral population into two distinct phenotypes may have occurred. We also show that the resultant evolutionary diversification yields two stably coexisting populations with trait values and depth distributions that are in agreement with those currently observed in the lake. We conclude that divergent thermal adaptations along the temperature-depth gradient might have brought about the two species observed today.
Vol. 182, No. 3, pp. 359-373