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author:("harrow, Chris")
1.  Coastal Upwelling Drives Intertidal Assemblage Structure and Trophic Ecology 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0130789.
Similar environmental driving forces can produce similarity among geographically distant ecosystems. Coastal oceanic upwelling, for example, has been associated with elevated biomass and abundance patterns of certain functional groups, e.g., corticated macroalgae. In the upwelling system of Northern Chile, we examined measures of intertidal macrobenthic composition, structure and trophic ecology across eighteen shores varying in their proximity to two coastal upwelling centres, in a hierarchical sampling design (spatial scales of >1 and >10 km). The influence of coastal upwelling on intertidal communities was confirmed by the stable isotope values (δ13C and δ15N) of consumers, including a dominant suspension feeder, grazers, and their putative resources of POM, epilithic biofilm, and macroalgae. We highlight the utility of muscle δ15N from the suspension feeding mussel, Perumytilus purpuratus, as a proxy for upwelling, supported by satellite data and previous studies. Where possible, we used corrections for broader-scale trends, spatial autocorrelation, ontogenetic dietary shifts and spatial baseline isotopic variation prior to analysis. Our results showed macroalgal assemblage composition, and benthic consumer assemblage structure, varied significantly with the intertidal influence of coastal upwelling, especially contrasting bays and coastal headlands. Coastal topography also separated differences in consumer resource use. This suggested that coastal upwelling, itself driven by coastline topography, influences intertidal communities by advecting nearshore phytoplankton populations offshore and cooling coastal water temperatures. We recommend the isotopic values of benthic organisms, specifically long-lived suspension feeders, as in situ alternatives to offshore measurements of upwelling influence.
PMCID: PMC4516361  PMID: 26214806
2.  Not all jellyfish are equal: isotopic evidence for inter- and intraspecific variation in jellyfish trophic ecology 
PeerJ  2015;3:e1110.
Jellyfish are highly topical within studies of pelagic food-webs and there is a growing realisation that their role is more complex than once thought. Efforts being made to include jellyfish within fisheries and ecosystem models are an important step forward, but our present understanding of their underlying trophic ecology can lead to their oversimplification in these models. Gelatinous zooplankton represent a polyphyletic assemblage spanning >2,000 species that inhabit coastal seas to the deep-ocean and employ a wide variety of foraging strategies. Despite this diversity, many contemporary modelling approaches include jellyfish as a single functional group feeding at one or two trophic levels at most. Recent reviews have drawn attention to this issue and highlighted the need for improved communication between biologists and theoreticians if this problem is to be overcome. We used stable isotopes to investigate the trophic ecology of three co-occurring scyphozoan jellyfish species (Aurelia aurita, Cyanea lamarckii and C. capillata) within a temperate, coastal food-web in the NE Atlantic. Using information on individual size, time of year and δ13C and δ15N stable isotope values, we examined: (1) whether all jellyfish could be considered as a single functional group, or showed distinct inter-specific differences in trophic ecology; (2) Were size-based shifts in trophic position, found previously in A. aurita, a common trait across species?; (3) When considered collectively, did the trophic position of three sympatric species remain constant over time? Differences in δ15N (trophic position) were evident between all three species, with size-based and temporal shifts in δ15N apparent in A. aurita and C. capillata. The isotopic niche width for all species combined increased throughout the season, reflecting temporal shifts in trophic position and seasonal succession in these gelatinous species. Taken together, these findings support previous assertions that jellyfish require more robust inclusion in marine fisheries or ecosystem models.
PMCID: PMC4517961  PMID: 26244116
Scyphozoan jellyfish; Food web; Aurelia aurita; Cyanea lamarckii; Cyanea capillata; Niche width; Bayesian statistics
3.  Where the Lake Meets the Sea: Strong Reproductive Isolation Is Associated with Adaptive Divergence between Lake Resident and Anadromous Three-Spined Sticklebacks 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0122825.
Contact zones between divergent forms of the same species are often characterised by high levels of phenotypic diversity over small geographic distances. What processes are involved in generating such high phenotypic diversity? One possibility is that introgression and recombination between divergent forms in contact zones results in greater phenotypic and genetic polymorphism. Alternatively, strong reproductive isolation between forms may maintain distinct phenotypes, preventing homogenisation by gene flow. Contact zones between divergent freshwater-resident and anadromous stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.) forms are numerous and common throughout the species distribution, offering an opportunity to examine these contrasting hypotheses in greater detail. This study reports on an interesting new contact zone located in a tidally influenced lake catchment in western Ireland, characterised by high polymorphism for lateral plate phenotypes. Using neutral and QTL-linked microsatellite markers, we tested whether the high diversity observed in this contact zone arose as a result of introgression or reproductive isolation between divergent forms: we found strong support for the latter hypothesis. Three phenotypic and genetic clusters were identified, consistent with two divergent resident forms and a distinct anadromous completely plated population that migrates in and out of the system. Given the strong neutral differentiation detected between all three morphotypes (mean FST = 0.12), we hypothesised that divergent selection between forms maintains reproductive isolation. We found a correlation between neutral genetic and adaptive genetic differentiation that support this. While strong associations between QTL linked markers and phenotypes were also observed in this wild population, our results support the suggestion that such associations may be more complex in some Atlantic populations compared to those in the Pacific. These findings provide an important foundation for future work investigating the dynamics of gene flow and adaptive divergence in this newly discovered stickleback contact zone.
PMCID: PMC4397041  PMID: 25874617
4.  Lake size and fish diversity determine resource use and trophic position of a top predator in high-latitude lakes 
Ecology and Evolution  2015;5(8):1664-1675.
Prey preference of top predators and energy flow across habitat boundaries are of fundamental importance for structure and function of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, as they may have strong effects on production, species diversity, and food-web stability. In lakes, littoral and pelagic food-web compartments are typically coupled and controlled by generalist fish top predators. However, the extent and determinants of such coupling remains a topical area of ecological research and is largely unknown in oligotrophic high-latitude lakes. We analyzed food-web structure and resource use by a generalist top predator, the Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus (L.), in 17 oligotrophic subarctic lakes covering a marked gradient in size (0.5–1084 km2) and fish species richness (2–13 species). We expected top predators to shift from littoral to pelagic energy sources with increasing lake size, as the availability of pelagic prey resources and the competition for littoral prey are both likely to be higher in large lakes with multispecies fish communities. We also expected top predators to occupy a higher trophic position in lakes with greater fish species richness due to potential substitution of intermediate consumers (prey fish) and increased piscivory by top predators. Based on stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses, the mean reliance of Arctic charr on littoral energy sources showed a significant negative relationship with lake surface area, whereas the mean trophic position of Arctic charr, reflecting the lake food-chain length, increased with fish species richness. These results were supported by stomach contents data demonstrating a shift of Arctic charr from an invertebrate-dominated diet to piscivory on pelagic fish. Our study highlights that, because they determine the main energy source (littoral vs. pelagic) and the trophic position of generalist top predators, ecosystem size and fish diversity are particularly important factors influencing function and structure of food webs in high-latitude lakes.
PMCID: PMC4409414  PMID: 25937909
Benthic; energy mobilization; food-chain length; habitat coupling; lake morphometry; predation; resource competition; stable isotope analysis; trophic niche
5.  Adaptive Radiation along a Thermal Gradient: Preliminary Results of Habitat Use and Respiration Rate Divergence among Whitefish Morphs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112085.
Adaptive radiation is considered an important mechanism for the development of new species, but very little is known about the role of thermal adaptation during this process. Such adaptation should be especially important in poikilothermic animals that are often subjected to pronounced seasonal temperature variation that directly affects metabolic function. We conducted a preliminary study of individual lifetime thermal habitat use and respiration rates of four whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus (L.)) morphs (two pelagic, one littoral and one profundal) using stable carbon and oxygen isotope values of otolith carbonate. These morphs, two of which utilized pelagic habitats, one littoral and one profundal recently diverged via adaptive radiation to exploit different major niches in a deep and thermally stratified subarctic lake. We found evidence that the morphs used different thermal niches. The profundal morph had the most distinct thermal niche and consistently occupied the coldest thermal habitat of the lake, whereas differences were less pronounced among the shallow water pelagic and littoral morphs. Our results indicated ontogenetic shifts in thermal niches: juveniles of all whitefish morphs inhabited warmer ambient temperatures than adults. According to sampling of the otolith nucleus, hatching temperatures were higher for benthic compared to pelagic morphs. Estimated respiration rate was the lowest for benthivorous profundal morph, contrasting with the higher values estimated for the other morphs that inhabited shallower and warmer water. These preliminary results suggest that physiological adaptation to different thermal habitats shown by the sympatric morphs may play a significant role in maintaining or strengthening niche segregation and divergence in life-history traits, potentially contributing to reproductive isolation and incipient speciation.
PMCID: PMC4236043  PMID: 25405979
6.  Unique mitochondrial DNA lineages in Irish stickleback populations: cryptic refugium or rapid recolonization? 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(12):2488-2504.
Repeated recolonization of freshwater environments following Pleistocene glaciations has played a major role in the evolution and adaptation of anadromous taxa. Located at the western fringe of Europe, Ireland and Britain were likely recolonized rapidly by anadromous fishes from the North Atlantic following the last glacial maximum (LGM). While the presence of unique mitochondrial haplotypes in Ireland suggests that a cryptic northern refugium may have played a role in recolonization, no explicit test of this hypothesis has been conducted. The three-spined stickleback is native and ubiquitous to aquatic ecosystems throughout Ireland, making it an excellent model species with which to examine the biogeographical history of anadromous fishes in the region. We used mitochondrial and microsatellite markers to examine the presence of divergent evolutionary lineages and to assess broad-scale patterns of geographical clustering among postglacially isolated populations. Our results confirm that Ireland is a region of secondary contact for divergent mitochondrial lineages and that endemic haplotypes occur in populations in Central and Southern Ireland. To test whether a putative Irish lineage arose from a cryptic Irish refugium, we used approximate Bayesian computation (ABC). However, we found no support for this hypothesis. Instead, the Irish lineage likely diverged from the European lineage as a result of postglacial isolation of freshwater populations by rising sea levels. These findings emphasize the need to rigorously test biogeographical hypothesis and contribute further evidence that postglacial processes may have shaped genetic diversity in temperate fauna.
PMCID: PMC4203293  PMID: 25360281
ABC; anadromous fish; British Isles; phylogeographical hypothesis testing; statistical phylogeography
8.  Rapid sympatric ecological differentiation of crater lake cichlid fishes within historic times 
BMC Biology  2010;8:60.
After a volcano erupts, a lake may form in the cooled crater and become an isolated aquatic ecosystem. This makes fishes in crater lakes informative for understanding sympatric evolution and ecological diversification in barren environments. From a geological and limnological perspective, such research offers insight about the process of crater lake ecosystem establishment and speciation. In the present study we use genetic and coalescence approaches to infer the colonization history of Midas cichlid fishes (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) that inhabit a very young crater lake in Nicaragua-the ca. 1800 year-old Lake Apoyeque. This lake holds two sympatric, endemic morphs of Midas cichlid: one with large, hypertrophied lips (~20% of the total population) and another with thin lips. Here we test the associated ecological, morphological and genetic diversification of these two morphs and their potential to represent incipient speciation.
Gene coalescence analyses [11 microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences] suggest that crater lake Apoyeque was colonized in a single event from the large neighbouring great lake Managua only about 100 years ago. This founding in historic times is also reflected in the extremely low nuclear and mitochondrial genetic diversity in Apoyeque. We found that sympatric adult thin- and thick-lipped fishes occupy distinct ecological trophic niches. Diet, body shape, head width, pharyngeal jaw size and shape and stable isotope values all differ significantly between the two lip-morphs. The eco-morphological features pharyngeal jaw shape, body shape, stomach contents and stable isotopes (δ15N) all show a bimodal distribution of traits, which is compatible with the expectations of an initial stage of ecological speciation under disruptive selection. Genetic differentiation between the thin- and thick-lipped population is weak at mtDNA sequence (FST = 0.018) and absent at nuclear microsatellite loci (FST < 0.001).
This study provides empirical evidence of eco-morphological differentiation occurring very quickly after the colonization of a new and vacant habitat. Exceptionally low levels of neutral genetic diversity and inference from coalescence indicates that the Midas cichlid population in Apoyeque is much younger (ca. 100 years or generations old) than the crater itself (ca. 1 800 years old). This suggests either that the crater remained empty for many hundreds of years after its formation or that remnant volcanic activity prevented the establishment of a stable fish population during the early life of the crater lake. Based on our findings of eco-morphological variation in the Apoyeque Midas cichlids, and known patterns of adaptation in Midas cichlids in general, we suggest that this population may be in a very early stage of speciation (incipient species), promoted by disruptive selection and ecological diversification.
PMCID: PMC2880021  PMID: 20459869
9.  Habitat-specific adaptation of immune responses of stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) lake and river ecotypes 
Freshwater populations of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in northern Germany are found as distinct lake and river ecotypes. Adaptation to habitat-specific parasites might influence immune capabilities of stickleback ecotypes. Here, naive laboratory-bred sticklebacks from lake and river populations were exposed reciprocally to parasite environments in a lake and a river habitat. Sticklebacks exposed to lake conditions were infected with higher numbers of parasite species when compared with the river. River sticklebacks in the lake had higher parasite loads than lake sticklebacks in the same habitat. Respiratory burst, granulocyte counts and lymphocyte proliferation of head kidney leucocytes were increased in river sticklebacks exposed to lake when compared with river conditions. Although river sticklebacks exposed to lake conditions showed elevated activation of their immune system, parasites could not be diminished as effectively as by lake sticklebacks in their native habitat. River sticklebacks seem to have reduced their immune-competence potential due to lower parasite diversity in rivers.
PMCID: PMC2176159  PMID: 17426014
ecological immunology; Gasterosteus aculeatus; ecotypes; parasites; immune response; specific growth rate
10.  Tracing early stages of species differentiation: Ecological, morphological and genetic divergence of Galápagos sea lion populations 
Oceans are high gene flow environments that are traditionally believed to hamper the build-up of genetic divergence. Despite this, divergence appears to occur occasionally at surprisingly small scales. The Galápagos archipelago provides an ideal opportunity to examine the evolutionary processes of local divergence in an isolated marine environment. Galápagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) are top predators in this unique setting and have an essentially unlimited dispersal capacity across the entire species range. In theory, this should oppose any genetic differentiation.
We find significant ecological, morphological and genetic divergence between the western colonies and colonies from the central region of the archipelago that are exposed to different ecological conditions. Stable isotope analyses indicate that western animals use different food sources than those from the central area. This is likely due to niche partitioning with the second Galápagos eared seal species, the Galápagos fur seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) that exclusively dwells in the west. Stable isotope patterns correlate with significant differences in foraging-related skull morphology. Analyses of mitochondrial sequences as well as microsatellites reveal signs of initial genetic differentiation.
Our results suggest a key role of intra- as well as inter-specific niche segregation in the evolution of genetic structure among populations of a highly mobile species under conditions of free movement. Given the monophyletic arrival of the sea lions on the archipelago, our study challenges the view that geographical barriers are strictly needed for the build-up of genetic divergence. The study further raises the interesting prospect that in social, colonially breeding mammals additional forces, such as social structure or feeding traditions, might bear on the genetic partitioning of populations.
PMCID: PMC2408593  PMID: 18485220

Results 1-10 (10)