In the threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus model system, phenotypes are often classified into three morphs according to lateral plate number. Morph identity has been shown to be largely genetically determined, but substantial within-morph variation in plate number exists. In this study, we test whether plate number has a plastic component in response to salinity in the low-plated morph using a split-clutch experiment where families were split in two, one half raised in water at 0 and the other at 30 ppt salt. We find a small salinity-induced plastic effect on plate number in an unexpected direction, opposite to what we predicted: Fish raised in freshwater on average have slightly more plates than fish raised in saltwater. Our results confirm that heritability of plate number is high. Additionally, we find that variance in plate number at the family level can be predicted from other family level traits, which might indicate that epistatic interactions play a role in creating the observed pattern of lateral plate number variation.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International