Aquatic habitats have been altered over the past century due to a variety of anthropogenic influences. Ecomorphology is an area of aquatic ecology that can both directly and indirectly assess the effects of habitat alterations on organisms. However, few studies have explored long term trends in morphological variation. Long term changes in morphology can potentially impact niche and ultimately contribute to organismal success and the ecosystem. Therefore, in this study we assessed long term morphological variation with body size, sex, time, and hydrology using museum collections of five species of Cyprinidae (Minnows) from lentic and lotic systems over the past 100 years to gain insight into long term patterns in morphology.
Variation in Cyprinidae morphology tended to relate to: body size—indicating strong allometric growth patterns with robustness of larger individuals; sex—indicating a level of fecundity selection for deeper bodies in females compared with males; and year—indirectly suggesting responses to habitat changes over the past century. In lotic ecosystems, Cyprinidae morphology tended to be more fusiform in conjunction with lower mean annual discharge or higher variation in discharge. In lentic ecosystems, change in morphology was observed but no historic habitat variables were available to discern potential mechanisms. Interestingly, not all species responded in the same magnitude or directionality.
Long term changes in morphological variation provide a link to exploring functional relationships between taxa and their environment and have implications for understanding ecosystem attributes, community assembly patterns, and conservation.
Jacquemin, S. J.,
& Pyron, M.
(2016). A Century of Morphological Variation in Cyprinidae Fishes. BMC Ecology, 16 (48).