Adaptive responses of independent traits to the same environmental gradient of the intertidal snail Bembicium vittatum.

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    The snail Bembicium vittatum occupies a wide range of intertidal habitats in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Allozyme variation reflects patterns of connectivity, which are independent of local habitat. In contrast, heritable differences in shell shape among 83 shore sites vary with habitat, indicating local adaptation. Here we examine dimorphisms of colour and spotting of the shell in the same populations, as a test of consistency and complexity of patterns of local adaptation. Within populations, the frequency of spotted shells is higher in dark shells. Despite this association, spatial variations of colour and spotting are only weakly correlated. As predicted for traits associated with local adaptation, subdivision is greater for colour, spotting and shape than for allozymes. Colour and shape are associated with local habitat, such that populations on vertical shores have higher frequencies of dark and relatively flatter shells than those on gently sloping shores. These associations are repeatable between three separate groups of islands. Spotting shows a weaker, but significant association with the same gradient. Although shape does not differ between colour morphs within populations, the proportion of dark shells is strongly associated with shape. Thus, the independent shell traits are apparently adapted to a common, biologically significant gradient, even though the adaptive mechanisms probably differ for colour and shape. The parallel variations of independent traits highlight both the complexity of local adaptation and the potential to reveal evolutionarily significant environmental contrasts by examining adaptively relevant traits.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-91
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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