Adaptation to local ultraviolet radiation conditions among neighbouring Daphnia populations

Brooks E. Miner, Benjamin Kerr


Understanding the historical processes that generated current patterns of phenotypic diversity in nature is particularly challenging in subdivided populations. Populations often exhibit heritable genetic differences that correlate with environmental variables, but the non-independence among neighbouring populations complicates statistical inference of adaptation. To understand the relative influence of adaptive and non-adaptive processes in generating phenotypes requires joint evaluation of genetic and phenotypic divergence in an integrated and statistically appropriate analysis. We investigated phenotypic divergence, population-genetic structure and potential fitness trade-offs in populations of Daphnia melanica inhabiting neighbouring subalpine ponds of widely differing transparency to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Using a combination of experimental, population-genetic and statistical techniques, we separated the effects of shared population ancestry and environmental variables in predicting phenotypic divergence among populations. We found that native water transparency significantly predicted divergence in phenotypes among populations even after accounting for significant population structure. This result demonstrates that environmental factors such as UVR can at least partially account for phenotypic divergence. However, a lack of evidence for a hypothesized trade-off between UVR tolerance and growth rates in the absence of UVR prevents us from ruling out the possibility that non-adaptive processes are partially responsible for phenotypic differentiation in this system.

  • Received August 3, 2010.
  • Accepted September 24, 2010.
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