Phenotypic variation in Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill) at broad spatial scales makes morphology an insufficient basis for taxonomic reclassification of the species
It was recently proposed that there are three new species of Salvelinus with microendemic distributions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA. The three species of Salvelinus were hypothesized to be distinct from their congener Brook Trout S. fontinalis based on three meristic traits—pored lateral-line scales, vertebral counts, and number of basihyal teeth. After analyses that included specimens sampled from a larger portion of the geographic range of S. fontinalis, we conclude that the three populations of Salvelinus recently described as new species are not morphometrically distinct from Brook Trout and consider all three to be synonyms of S. fontinalis. Moreover, the low number of specimens originally examined conflates morphological differences among populations with sexual dimorphism and/or phenotypic plasticity, both of which are documented extensively in Brook Trout but were not controlled for in the species descriptions. While there is currently insufficient phenotypic or genotypic evidence to support the hypothesis of three new species that are distinct from S. fontinalis, we acknowledge the need to understand the unique selection pressures that shape evolutionary trajectories in small, isolated populations of Brook Trout and to conserve evolutionarily significant sources of genotypic and phenotypic diversity. To that end, we provide comments on research opportunities to support Brook Trout conservation, including the importance of collaborative, range-wide phylogenetic studies to identify the most appropriate scales of management efforts.
|Phenotypic variation in Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill) at broad spatial scales makes morphology an insufficient basis for taxonomic reclassification of the species
|Shannon L. White, David C. Kazyak, Richard C Harrington, Matt A. Kulp, Jacob M Rash, T. Casey Weathers, Thomas J Near
|Ichthyology & Herpetology
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Eastern Ecological Science Center