Parallel and non-parallel morphological divergence among foraging specialists in European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)



A. Siwertsson, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway; Tel: +47 77646113; Fax; +47 77646020; E-mail:


Parallel phenotypic evolution occurs when independent populations evolve similar traits in response to similar selective regimes. However, populations inhabiting similar environments also frequently show some phenotypic differences that result from non-parallel evolution. In this study, we quantified the relative importance of parallel evolution to similar foraging regimes and non-parallel lake-specific effects on morphological variation in European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus). We found evidence for both lake-specific morphological characteristics and parallel morphological divergence between whitefish specializing in feeding on profundal and littoral resources in three separate lakes. Foraging specialists expressed similar phenotypes in different lakes in both overall body shape and selected measured morphological traits. The morphology of the two whitefish specialists resembled that predicted from other fish species, supporting the conclusion of an adaptive significance of the observed morphological characteristics. Our results indicate that divergent natural selection resulting from foraging specialization is driving and/or maintaining the observed parallel morphological divergence. Whitefish in this study may represent an early stage of divergence towards the evolution of specialized morphs.