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Keywords:

  • Adaptation;
  • diversification;
  • divergent selection;
  • Ectodysplasin;
  • speciation

Predator-driven divergent selection may cause differentiation in defensive armor in threespine stickleback: (1) predatory fish and birds favor robust armor, whereas (2) predaceous aquatic insects favor armor reduction. Although (1) is well established, no direct experimental evidence exists for (2). I examined the phenotypic and genetic consequences of insect predation using F2 families from crosses between freshwater and marine stickleback populations. I measured selection on body size, and size-adjusted spine (dorsal and pelvic) and pelvic girdle length, by splitting juvenile F2 families between control and insect predation treatments, set in pond enclosures. I also examined the effect of insect predation on Ectodysplasin (Eda), a gene physically linked to quantitative trait loci for lateral plate number, spine length, and body shape. Insect predation resulted in: (1) significant selection for larger juvenile size, and shorter dorsal spine and pelvic girdle length, (2) higher mortality of individuals missing the pelvic girdle, and (3) selection in favor of the low armor Eda allele. Predatory insects favor less stickleback armor, likely contributing to the widespread reduction of armor in freshwater populations. Because size strongly influences mate choice, predator-driven divergent selection on size may play a substantial role in byproduct reproductive isolation and speciation in threespine stickleback.