Molecular ecology

Convergence in organ size but not energy metabolism enzyme activities among wild Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) species pairs.

PMID 27662610


The repeated evolution of similar phenotypes by similar mechanisms can be indicative of local adaptation, constraints or biases in the evolutionary process. Little is known about the incidence of physiological convergence in natural populations, so here we test whether energy metabolism in 'dwarf' and 'normal' Lake Whitefish evolves by similar mechanisms. Prior genomic and transcriptomic studies have found that divergence in energy metabolism is key to local adaptation in whitefish species pairs, but that distinct genetic and transcriptomic changes often underlie phenotypic evolution among lakes. Here, we predicted that traits at higher levels of biological organization, including the activities of energy metabolism enzymes (the product of enzyme concentration and turnover rate) and the relative proportions of metabolically active tissues (heart, liver, skeletal muscle), would show greater convergence than genetic and transcriptomic variation. We compared four whitefish species pairs and found convergence in organ size whereby all dwarf whitefish populations have a higher proportion of red skeletal muscle, three have relatively larger livers and two have relatively larger ventricles than normal fish. On the other hand, hepatic and muscle enzyme activities showed little convergence and were largely dependent on lake of origin. Only the most genetically divergent species pair (Cliff Lake) displayed white muscle enzyme activities matching results from laboratory-reared normal and dwarf whitefish. Overall, these data show convergence in the evolution of organ size, but not in the activities of candidate enzymes of energy metabolism, which may have evolved mainly as a consequence of demographic or ecological differences among lakes.

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