Ecological factors and morphological traits are associated with repeated genomic differentiation between lake and stream stickleback


The repeated evolution of similar phenotypes in independent populations (i.e. parallel or convergent evolution) provides an opportunity to identify genetic and ecological factors that influence the process of adaptation. Threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) are an excellent model for such studies, as they have repeatedly adapted to divergent habitats across the Northern hemisphere. Here, we use genomic, ecological and morphological data from 16 independent pairs of stickleback populations adapted to divergent lake and stream habitats. We combine a population genomic approach to identify regions of the genome that are likely under selection in these divergent habitats with an association mapping approach to identify regions of the genome that underlie variation in ecological factors and morphological traits. Over 37% of genomic windows are repeatedly differentiated across lake–stream pairs. Similarly, many genomic windows are associated with variation in abiotic factors, diet items and morphological phenotypes. Both the highly differentiated windows and candidate trait windows are non-randomly distributed across the genome and show some overlap. However, the overlap is not significant on a genome-wide scale. Together, our data suggest that adaptation to divergent food resources and predation regimes are drivers of differentiation in lake–stream stickleback, but that additional ecological factors are also important.

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