Adding the third dimension to studies of parallel evolution of morphology and function: An exploration based on parapatric lakeā€stream stickleback

November 17, 2020

Grant E. Haines (1), Yoel E. Stuart (2), Dieta Hanson (1), Tania Tasneem (3), Daniel I. Bolnick (4), Hans C. E. Larsson (1), Andrew P. Hendry (1)

Ecology and Evolution, 10, Issue 23, 17 November 2020:13297-13311. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6929


Recent methodological advances have led to a rapid expansion of evolutionary studies employing three-dimensional landmark-based geometric morphometrics (GM). GM methods generally enable researchers to capture and compare complex shape phenotypes, and to quantify their relationship to environmental gradients. However, some recent studies have shown that the common, inexpensive, and relatively rapid two-dimensional GM methods can distort important information and produce misleading results because they cannot capture variation in the depth (Z) dimension. We use micro-CT scanned threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus Linnaeus, 1758) from six parapatric lake-stream populations on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to test whether the loss of the depth dimension in 2D GM studies results in misleading interpretations of parallel evolution. Using joint locations described with 2D or 3D landmarks, we compare results from separate 2D and 3D shape spaces, from a combined 2D-3D shape space, and from estimates of biomechanical function. We show that, although shape is distorted enough in 2D projections to strongly influence the interpretation of morphological parallelism, estimates of biomechanical function are relatively robust to the loss of the Z dimension.

How Our Software Was Used

Dragonfly used to segment scans and to convert them to 3D mesh files. Then, our software's mesh smoothing function was used to subject these mesh files to two iterations of smoothinto reduce noise and make structure boundaries more clear.

Author Affiliation

(1) Redpath Museum and Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada
(2) Department of Biology, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, USA
(3) Kealing Middle School, Austin Independent School District, Austin, TX, USA
(4) Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA