Cryptic Phenotypic Plasticity in Populations of the Freshwater Prosobranch Snail, Pleurocera canaliculata

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We sampled four populations of the robustly shelled Pleurocera canaliculata from large rivers and five pleurocerid populations bearing more fusiform shells (nominally P. acuta and P. pyrenellum) from smaller streams in a study area extending from upstate New York to northern Alabama, USA. Gene frequencies at 9 allozyme-encoding loci revealed that each population of P. acuta or P. pyrenellum was more genetically similar to the P. canaliculata population inhabiting the larger river immediately downstream than to any nominal conspecific. Thus, the extensive intraspecific variation in shell robustness displayed by these nine populations has apparently been rendered cryptic by taxonomic confusion. We then employed geometric morphometrics to explore a gradient in shell morphology from the acuta form to the typical canaliculata form in 18 historic samples collected down the length of Indiana's Wabash River. The shell forms appeared generally distinctive on the major axes yielded by relative warp analysis (increasing robustness and decreasing spire elongation), although some overlap was apparent. MANCOVA returned a significant relationship between multivariate shape variation and stream size, as measured by drainage area. Possible drivers for this phenomenon include an environmental cline in the risk of dislodgement due to hydrodynamic drag and shifts in the community of predators. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]



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