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Allometric change accompanies opercular shape evolution in Alaskan threespine sticklebacks

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How does development evolve to produce a skeletal element with a new shape? We extend our previous study of morphological evolution and development of the opercle, a large facial bone with favorable attributes for both comparative and development analyses. The opercle becomes prominently reshaped when Alaskan anadromous stickleback fish evolve into resident freshwater lacustrine forms. We use geometric morphometrics to examine the opercle shape change which includes a prominent dilation of the bone along one axis, coupled with diminution along the orthogonal axis. During juvenile to adult development, the opercles of both the ancestral and derived forms change in shape as they grow in size, and the allometries differ between the two forms. Hence, a feature of morphological evolution in this system is the appearance of a novel shape–size developmental trajectory in the lacustrine fish. We include a model explaining the ancestral allometric pattern of bone growth, and how growth must be reorganized to bring about the evolutionary change in shape.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA; 2: Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA; 3: Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA


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