Phenotypic convergence of artificially reared and wild trout is mediated by shape plasticity


Phenotypic plasticity can be viewed as the first level of defense of organism homeostasis against environmental stress and therefore represents the potential to deal with rapid environmental changes. Transitions between low complexity, artificial environments and complex, natural habitats can promote phenotypic plasticity. Here, we conducted an experimental introduction with juvenile brown trout to evaluate the plasticity of shape in response to a transition between contrasting environments. We released 202 juvenile trout reared under hatchery conditions in a natural stream and analyzed changes in shape and morphological variability after 5 months. A geometric morphometrics approach based on 14 landmarks was used to compare changes in body shape for 37 fish recaptured at the end of the experiment. A similar number of hatchery and wild fish caught at the receptor stream were used as controls for shape in the two environments. After 5-months, fish showed significant change in shape, shifting from elongated to robust shapes, and affecting to the relative position of the caudal peduncle. These new shapes were closer to wild than to the hatchery shapes, suggesting a process of rapid phenotype change. Moreover, these changes were concomitant with a marked increase in morphological variability. Our results support the hypothesis that phenotypic plasticity is a major potential for adjustment to environmental change but not the idea that shape can be constrained by initial shapes. We confirmed the "increased" variance hypothesis and phenotype convergence with wild morphs. This has important implications because stresses the role of phenotypic plasticity as a buffer that allows organisms to cope with important environmental discontinuities at time scales that preclude the onset of adaptive adjustments. We suggest that environmental conditioning and shape plasticity can overcome both reduced morphological diversity and phenotype uncoupling with habitat characteristics resulting from initial rearing in low complexity artificial environments.

DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3156

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{SnchezGonzlez2017PhenotypicCO, title={Phenotypic convergence of artificially reared and wild trout is mediated by shape plasticity}, author={Jorge Ruben S{\'a}nchez-Gonz{\'a}lez and Alfredo G. Nicieza}, booktitle={Ecology and evolution}, year={2017} }