Associations with habitat versus geographic cohesiveness: size and shape of Bembicium vittatum Philippi (Gastropoda: Littorinidae) in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands

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    In the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia, the direct-developing littorine snail Bembicium vittatum occupies a wide range of habitats, which are replicated across the three major groups of islands. Earlier studies showed that allozyme similarities Followed patterns related to gene flow, independent of habitat, providing an excellent opportunity to test for associations with habitat for traits more likely to be adaptively important. As the first test for adaptive divergence, we examined variation in size and shape of shells among 131 populations in the Abrolhos Islands. Two-fold variations were found in width of adults, the allometric coefficient of height with width, and shell height scaled to a standard width. Quantification of habitat characteristics was summarized by principal components analysis. In contrast with the patterns of divergence for allozymes, shell height, adjusted for width, was strongly associated with habitat flatter shells are found on exposed, vertical shores, while domed, more globose shells predominate in sheltered sites. This association was stronger for shape of adult-sized snails than for height scaled to an arbitrary size, highlighting the importance of using biologically relevant measures. Even highly isolated and allozymically less variable populations in tidal ponds conformed to this association. Because differences in shape are highly heritable in B. vittatum, this association of shape with habitat, independent of patterns of gene flow, indicates local adaptation. Shell size also varied with habitat, but because growth rate is highly plastic, variation in size cannot be interpreted simply in terms of adaptation. Nevertheless, the pattern of variation indicates that, within realized limits, larger size is generally favourable, but may be constrained by local conditions. Thus, variation in size signals the potential for adaptive divergence of life histories among the many, isolated populations of this species. (C) 2000 The Linnean Society of London.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)563-580
    JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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