A study of fluctuating asymmetry in hybrids of dwarf and normal lake whitefish ecotypes (Coregonus clupeaformis) from different glacial races


Louis Bernatchez E-mail: louis.bernatchez@bio.ulaval.ca


Fish ecotypes found in north temperate lakes are increasingly used as model organisms to explore patterns and processes of population divergence that may ultimately cause speciation. Processes involved in their reproductive isolation are, however, still poorly understood. Recent experimental studies on whitefish ecotypes from different glacial races revealed that embryonic mortality of hybrids was 2.4–4.7 times higher than for parental forms. In this study, we compared fluctuating asymmetry (FA) in morphological traits of these same hybrid and pure crosses to test the hypothesis that genetic stress observed in hybrids at embryonic stages is also manifested at later developmental stages. Twelve morphological traits were used to measure asymmetry. Variable degrees of asymmetry were observed depending on traits and crosses, however there was no significant difference in FA among crosses. These results thus provided no evidence in support of the working hypothesis and indicated that genetic stress may differ among life stages. It is more likely that high hybrid embryonic mortality acts together with ecological factors at later stages to increase further the extent of reproductive isolation between sympatric whitefish ecotypes.