• Open Access

Adaptive responses and invasion: the role of plasticity and evolution in snail shell morphology



Erica J. Kistner, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, 090 Galvin Life Sciences Center, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556. Tel: +1 425 417 4580; Fax: 574 631 0856; E-mail: ekistner@nd.edu


Invasive species often exhibit either evolved or plastic adaptations in response to spatially varying environmental conditions. We investigated whether evolved or plastic adaptation was driving variation in shell morphology among invasive populations of the New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) in the western United States. We found that invasive populations exhibit considerable shell shape variation and inhabit a variety of flow velocity habitats. We investigated the importance of evolution and plasticity by examining variation in shell morphological traits 1) between the parental and F1 generations for each population and 2) among populations of the first lab generation (F1) in a common garden, full-sib design using Canonical Variate Analyses (CVA). We compared the F1 generation to the parental lineages and found significant differences in overall shell shape indicating a plastic response. However, when examining differences among the F1 populations, we found that they maintained among-population shell shape differences, indicating a genetic response. The F1 generation exhibited a smaller shell morph more suited to the low-flow common garden environment within a single generation. Our results suggest that phenotypic plasticity in conjunction with evolution may be driving variation in shell morphology of this widespread invasive snail.