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Keywords:

  • dissolved oxygen;
  • divergent natural selection;
  • geometric morphometrics;
  • interdemic variation;
  • path analysis;
  • phenotype–environment correlation;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • population differentiation;
  • structural equation modelling;
  • water velocity

Abstract

Environmental factors influence phenotypes directly, as well as indirectly via trait correlations and interactions with other environmental variables. Using nine populations of the African cyprinid Barbus neumayeri, we employed path analysis to examine direct, indirect and total effects of two environmental variables, water flow (WF) and dissolved oxygen (DO), on several morphological traits. WF and DO directly influenced relative gill size, body shape and caudal fin shape in manners consistent with a priori predictions. Indirect effects also played an important role in the system: (1) strong, oppositely signed direct and indirect effects of WF on body shape resulted in a nonsignificant total effect; (2) DO had no direct effect on body shape, but a strong total effect via indirect effects on gill size; (3) WF indirectly influenced gill size via effects on DO. Only through examination of multiple environmental parameters and multiple traits can we hope to understand complex relationships between environment and phenotype.