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Environmental determinants of threespine stickleback species pair evolution and persistence

Ormond, Chad I., Rosenfeld, Jordan S., Taylor, Eric B.
Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 2011 v.68 no.11 pp. 1983-1997
Gasterosteus aculeatus, biotic factors, environmental factors, evolution, fish, fish communities, habitats, lakes, risk, species diversity, watersheds, British Columbia
Threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) species pairs are found in four watersheds in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, and are listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. Their origin is thought to be through a double-invasion process followed by character displacement; however, this hypothesis does not consider whether speciation is dependent on unique environmental factors necessary to support two species with separate habitat and resource requirements, which may be essential both for their evolution and persistence. To test whether species pair lakes have unique attributes, we compared abiotic and biotic factors of species pair lakes to lakes with only a single population of stickleback. There were no clear environmental differences between species pair and non-species pair lakes, but species pairs were only present in lakes with low fish species diversity, suggesting that evolution and persistence of species pairs requires a simplified fish community. Our study suggests that colonization history rather than unique lake attributes (related to either physical habitat or trophic resources) facilitated the evolution of stickleback species pairs and that the fish assemblage in lakes may affect resource availability and speciation potential as strongly as the limnological attributes of the lakes themselves.