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Ecomorphology of a generalist freshwater gastropod: complex relations of shell morphology, habitat, and fecundity

Verhaegen, Gerlien, Neiman, Maurine, Haase, Martin
Organisms, diversity, & evolution 2018 v.18 no.4 pp. 425-441
Potamopyrgus antipodarum, ecomorphology, endoparasites, environmental factors, fecundity, freshwater, genetic relationships, geometry, habitats, indigenous species, invasive species, mitochondrial DNA, morphometry, single nucleotide polymorphism, snails, sterilizing, New Zealand
Evolutionary and ecological situations in a species’ native and invasive ranges can be drastically different. This is the case for Potamopyrgus antipodarum Gray (1843) a morphologically highly variable freshwater snail native to New Zealand, where sexual and asexual individuals coexist and experience selective pressure by sterilizing endoparasites. By contrast, only a few asexual lineages have been established in invaded regions around the globe, where parasite infection is extremely rare. We analyzed the ecomorphology of 996 native P. antipodarum in a geometric morphometric framework, using brood size as proxy for fecundity, and mtDNA and nuclear SNPs to account for relatedness and identify reproductive mode. As expected, we found genetic and morphological diversity to be higher in native than in invasive snails investigated previously, but surprisingly no higher morphological diversity in sexual versus asexual individuals. The relationships between shell morphology, habitat, and fecundity were complex. Shape variation was primarily linked to genetic relatedness but specific environmental factors including flow rate induced similar shell shapes. By contrast, shell size was largely explained by environmental factors. Fecundity was correlated with size but showed trade-offs with shape in increasingly extreme conditions. With increasing flow and toward small springs, the trend of shell shape becoming wider was reversed, i.e., snails with narrower shells were brooding more embryos. We concluded that both genetic and environmental contributions to variation in shell morphology in P. antipodarum likely play an important role in the ability of this species to adapt to a wide spectrum of habitats.