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Fitness in a changing world
Date:10/10/2008

es is that energy is shunted away from bone formation and toward growth and reproduction instead, especially since the freshwater environment is stressful to the fish. In contrast to the ocean, freshwater lakes (especially in the far north) become iced over, limiting the prey items available to stickleback throughout most of the winter.

Coding for the lateral plates was initially determined to have a relatively simple genetic basis with one gene identified as a major contributor, Ectodysplasin-A (Eda). However subsequent mapping showed that in addition to the region of the genome surrounding Eda, two additional blocks of the same chromosome were also tightly linked to each other and the lateral plate trait. Genetic mapping work on Alaskan stickleback was conducted by William Cresko at the University of Oregon and supported by the National Science Foundation.

Fish develop full lateral plates if they have at least one copy of the Eda complete version of the gene (heterozygous or homozygous for the Eda complete allele). The fish lack the full complement of plates if they are homozygous for the recessive gene--Eda low. From the laboratory mapping results, and the rapid loss of plates observed in nature, biologists hypothesized that selection would always be for the Eda low allele in freshwater.

An experimental test by Barrett et al. has shown surprisingly unexpected results in fitness of the fish. The fish's lifespan is approximately a year. Over the course of a year, researchers sampled a controlled population of stickleback. They found that early in life, fish with Eda low were not as successful.

However, midway through their life, the tables turned and the fish with a copy of Eda low were more successful at surviving. In retrospect, these data might not be so surprising given the results from Cresko on the additional linkage blocks. Selection is likely directly on the Eda alleles when the fish is older, but may be on the other link
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Contact: Lily Whiteman
lwhitema@nsf.gov
703-292-8310
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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