Multivariate analysis of morphology, behaviour, growth and developmental timing in hybrids brings new insights into the divergence of sympatric Arctic charr morphs

Quentin J.B. Horta-Lacueva*, Sigurður S. Snorrason, Michael B. Morrissey, Camille A.L. Leblanc, Kalina H. Kapralova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Studying the development of fitness related traits in hybrids from populations diverging in sympatry is a fundamental approach to understand the processes of speciation. However, such traits are often affected by covariance structures that complicate the comprehension of these processes, especially because the interactive relationships between traits of different nature (e.g. morphology, behaviour, life-history) remain largely unknown in this context. In a common garden setup, we conducted an extensive examination of a large suit of traits putatively involved in the divergence of two morphs of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus), and investigated the consequences of potential patterns of trait covariance on the phenotype of their hybrids. These traits were measured along ontogeny and involved growth, yolk sac resorption, developmental timing (hatching and the onset of exogeneous feeding), head morphology and feeding behaviour. Results: Growth trajectories provided the strongest signal of phenotypic divergence between the two charr. Strikingly, the first-generation hybrids did not show intermediate nor delayed growth but were similar to the smallest morph, suggesting parental biases in the inheritance of growth patterns. However, we did not observe extensive multivariate trait differences between the two morphs and their hybrids. Growth was linked to head morphology (suggesting that morphological variations in early juveniles relate to simple allometric effects) but this was the only strong signal of covariance observed between all the measured traits. Furthermore, we did not report evidence for differences in overall phenotypic variance between morphs, nor for enhanced phenotypic variability in their hybrids. Conclusion: Our study shed light on the multivariate aspect of development in a context of adaptive divergence. The lack of evidence for the integration of most traits into a single covariance structure suggested that phenotypic constraints may not always favour nor impede divergence toward ecological niches differing in numerous physical and ecological variables, as observed in the respective habitats of the two charr. Likewise, the role of hybridization as a disruptive agent of trait covariance may not necessarily be significant in the evolution of populations undergoing resource polymorphism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170
Pages (from-to)170
JournalBMC Ecology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Other keywords

  • Adaptive divergence
  • Development
  • Ecological speciation
  • Hybridization
  • Resource polymorphism
  • Sympatry
  • Trait covariance
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Phenotype
  • Animals
  • Trout/genetics
  • Ecosystem


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