• adaptive divergence;
  • ecological speciation;
  • parapatry;
  • selection;
  • stable isotopes


Parallel phenotypic evolution in similar environments has been well studied in evolutionary biology; however, comparatively little is known about the influence of determinism and historical contingency on the nature, extent and generality of this divergence. Taking advantage of a novel system containing multiple lake–stream stickleback populations, we examined the extent of ecological, morphological and genetic divergence between three-spined stickleback present in parapatric environments. Consistent with other lake–stream studies, we found a shift towards a deeper body and shorter gill rakers in stream fish. Morphological shifts were concurrent with changes in diet, indicated by both stable isotope and stomach contents analysis. Performing a multivariate test for shared and unique components of evolutionary response to the distance gradient from the lake, we found a strong signature of parallel adaptation. Nonparallel divergence was also present, attributable mainly to differences between river locations. We additionally found evidence of genetic substructuring across five lake–stream transitions, indicating that some level of reproductive isolation occurs between populations in these habitats. Strong correlations between pairwise measures of morphological, ecological and genetic distance between lake and stream populations supports the hypothesis that divergent natural selection between habitats drives adaptive divergence and reproductive isolation. Lake–stream stickleback divergence in Lough Neagh provides evidence for the deterministic role of selection and supports the hypothesis that parallel selection in similar environments may initiate parallel speciation.