The Dynamic Ontogenetic Shape Patterns of Adaptive Divergence and Sexual Dimorphism

Marina de la Cámara*, Lieke Ponsioen, Quentin J.B. Horta-Lacueva, Kalina H. Kapralova*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interplay between ecological diversification and sexual dimorphism has been largely overlooked in the literature. Sexually dimorphic species which are also undergoing adaptive radiations are ideal for filling this knowledge gap. The Arctic charr in lake Thingvallavatn is one such system: it is a sexually dimorphic species which has recently diverged along the benthic-limnetic ecological axis. In a long-running common-garden experiment we studied the shape variation throughout ontogeny of intra- and inter- morph crosses of benthic and limnetic charr from the lake. We found that shape differences between ecomorphs and sexes had a genetic component. Prior to the onset of sexual maturation, shape differences were attributable to cross type and were related to adaptations to benthic and limnetic niches, i.e., shorter lower jaws and rounder snouts in the benthic and evenly protruding snouts and pointier snouts in the limnetic. Reciprocal hybrids showed intermediate, transgressive and/or maternal morphologies. However, after the onset of sexual maturation larger morphological differences occurred between sexes than among cross types. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the interplay between ecological diversification and sexual dimorphism is complex and dynamic throughout ontogeny, and that long-term common garden experiments are immensely valuable for studying shape dynamics in different evolutionary scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was fully funded by the Icelandic Centre of Research, RANNÍS (Icelandic Research Fund grant no. 1535–1533039 and 1535–1533090).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

Other keywords

  • Adaptive divergence
  • Arctic charr
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Ontogeny
  • Sexual dimorphism


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