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Keywords:

  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • colour change;
  • sculpin;
  • Glacier Bay;
  • colonisation;
  • glacial recession

Whiteley AR, Bergstrom CA, Linderoth T, Tallmon DA. The spectre of past spectral conditions: colour plasticity, crypsis, and predation risk in freshwater sculpin from newly deglaciated streams. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 2011: 20: 80–91. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S

Abstract –  Coastrange sculpin (Cottus aleuticus) have colonised recently deglaciated streams of Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, USA, within the last 200 years. Highly cryptic colouration across a marked gradient of stream substrate colours within Glacier Bay could result from physiological (rapid) or morphological (slower) colour change. Laboratory experiments revealed that physiological colour plasticity occurred on the order of minutes, with significant variation in the degree of colour change among individuals and between populations. In contrast, morphological colour plasticity occurred on the order of weeks to months. Experimentally manipulated spectral conditions influenced the magnitude and variance of subsequent physiological colour plasticity. In-stream predation trials revealed significantly more predation attempts on higher background contrast sculpin models, providing evidence that background colour matching has strong fitness consequences. Colour plasticity with apparent fitness consequences occurs at multiple interacting time scales in coastrange sculpin and may play an important role in the colonisation of recently deglaciated streams.