From top to bottom: Do Lake Trout diversify along a depth gradient in Great Bear Lake, NT, Canada?

By: , and 



Depth is usually considered the main driver of Lake Trout intraspecific diversity across lakes in North America. Given that Great Bear Lake is one of the largest and deepest freshwater systems in North America, we predicted that Lake Trout intraspecific diversity to be organized along a depth axis within this system. Thus, we investigated whether a deep-water morph of Lake Trout co-existed with four shallow-water morphs previously described in Great Bear Lake. Morphology, neutral genetic variation, isotopic niches, and life-history traits of Lake Trout across depths (0–150 m) were compared among morphs. Due to the propensity of Lake Trout with high levels of morphological diversity to occupy multiple habitat niches, a novel multivariate grouping method using a suite of composite variables was applied in addition to two other commonly used grouping methods to classify individuals. Depth alone did not explain Lake Trout diversity in Great Bear Lake; a distinct fifth deep-water morph was not found. Rather, Lake Trout diversity followed an ecological continuum, with some evidence for adaptation to local conditions in deep-water habitat. Overall, trout caught from deep-water showed low levels of genetic and phenotypic differentiation from shallow-water trout, and displayed higher lipid content (C:N ratio) and occupied a higher trophic level that suggested an potential increase of piscivory (including cannibalism) than the previously described four morphs. Why phenotypic divergence between shallow- and deep-water Lake Trout was low is unknown, especially when the potential for phenotypic variation should be high in deep and large Great Bear Lake. Given that variation in complexity of freshwater environments has dramatic consequences for divergence, variation in the complexity in Great Bear Lake (i.e., shallow being more complex than deep), may explain the observed dichotomy in the expression of intraspecific phenotypic diversity between shallow- vs. deep-water habitats. The ambiguity surrounding mechanisms driving divergence of Lake Trout in Great Bear Lake should be seen as reflective of the highly variable nature of ecological opportunity and divergent natural selection itself.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title From top to bottom: Do Lake Trout diversify along a depth gradient in Great Bear Lake, NT, Canada?
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0193925
Volume 13
Issue 3
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher PLOS
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description e0193925; 28 p.
First page 1
Last page 28
Country Canada
State Northwest Territories
Other Geospatial Great Bear Lake
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