Intra-specific morphological plasticity in three Puntius species in Sri Lanka

M.P.K.S.K. De Silva, S. Hettiarachi, N.P.P. Liyanage


Phenotype of an organism is a result of interaction of genotype and environment. Individuals of a same species living in variety of habitats may subject to different environmental conditions. As a result, they may adapt to local conditions in those habitats which include the changes in morphology from the common phenotype. Different morphologies in individuals of same genotype is called phenotypic plasticity. This is considered as an important event in evolutionary ecology because these individuals are the first to subject to natural selection. Present study focused on phenotypic plasticity in three freshwater fish species namely Puntius dorsalis, P. vitatus and P. bimaculatus. Fish were sampled from different locations in four different altitude ranges of five major rivers of Sri Lanka. Twenty three length measurements and fifteen meristic characters were recorded from each individual and fourteen physicochemical parameters of each location were also measured. Relationship between altitude range and the species morphology was analysed by discriminant analysis and hierachical cluster analysis. Correlation of physicochemical parameters with the altitude range was also studied. Results showed that individuals living in different altitude ranges in different rivers and also in the same river were morphologically different. Results indicated that length characters which determine the shape of the individual mainly con- tribute to the discrimination of individuals according to their respective altitude range. Ratios of maximum body width to standard length, pre ventral length to post ventral length and fork length to standard length in P. dorsalis, P. vitatus and P. bimaculatus respectively were the main discrimination characters that grouped the individuals according to the respective altitudes. Variations in length characters were found to be adaptations to their habitat.
Most physicochemical parameters were significantly correlated (negatively or positively) according to the altitude ranges where three species were collected. Phenotypic plasticity in the three Puntius species inhabiting different altitudes may have resulted as an adaptation to these variable physicochemical parameters.

Full Text:



Abrams PA. 2003. Can adaptive evolution or behaviour lead to diversification of traits determining a trade-off between foraging gain and predation risk? Evolutionary Ecology Research 5:653-670

Beacham TD. 1990. A genetic analysis of meristic and morphometric variation in chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) at three different temperatures. Canadian Journal of Zoology 68: 225-229

Barlow GW. 1961. Causes and significance of morphological variation in fishes. Systematic Zoology 10: 105-117

Brinsmead J and Fox MG. 2003. Morphological variation between lake- and streamdwelling rock bass and pumpkinseed populations. Journal of Fish Biology 61:1619-1638

Br¨onmark C. and Miner JG. 1992. Predator-induced phenotypical change in body morphology in crucian carp. Science 258: 1348-1350

Carvalho GR. 1993. Evolutionary aspects of fish distribution: genetic variability and adaptation. Journal of Fish Biology 43 (Suppl A): 53-73

Chapman LJ., Chapman CA., Brazeau DA., McLaughlin B. and Jordan, M. 1999.

Papyrus swamps, hypoxia and faunal diversification: variation among populations of Barbus neumayeri. Journal of Fish Biology 54:310-327

Chapman LJ. and Liem K.F. 1995. Papyrus swamps and the respiratory ecology of Barbus neumayeri. Environment and Biology of Fishes 44:183-197

Corti M., Loy A. and Cataudella S. 1996. Form changes in sea bass, Dicentrachus labrax (Moronidae: Teleostei), after acclimatation to freshwater: an analysis using shape coordinates. Enviornmental Biology of fishes 47: 165-175

Day T. andMcPhail JD. 1996. The effect of behavioural and morphological plasticity on foraging efficiency in the three spine stickleback (Gasterosteus sp.). Oecologia 108:380-388

Day T. Pritchard J. and Schluter D. 1994. A comparison of two sticklebacks. Evolution 48:1723-1734

Goulding M., Carvalho ML. and Ferreira EG. 1988. Rio Negro: rich life in poor water. Hague, the Netherlands: SPB Academic Publishing.

Jerry DR. and Cairns SC. 1998. Morphological variability in the catadromous Australian bass, Macquaria novemaculeata (Perciformes: Percichthyidae), from seven geographically distinct riverine drainages. Journal of Fish Biology 52: 829-843

Jonsson B. and Jonsson N. 2001. Polymorphism and speciation in Arctic charr. Journal of Fish Biology 58:605-638

Kinsey ST., Orsoy T., Bert T.M. and Mahmoudi B. 1994. Population structure of the Spanish sardine Sardinella aurita: natural morphological variation in a genetically homogenous population. Marine Biology 118: 309-317

Lindsay CC. 1981. Stocks are chameleons: plasticity in gill rakers of Corrigonid fishes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 38:1497-1506

Lowe-McConnell RH. 1987. Ecological Studies in Tropical Fish Communities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Magnan P. 1988. Interactions between Brook charr, Salvelinus fontinalis, and nonsalmonid species: ecological shift, morphological shift, and their impact on zooplankton communities. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 45:999-1009

Robinson BW. and Wilson DS. 1994. Character release and displacement in fishes: A neglected literature. American Naturalist 144:596-627


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons Licence
Ruhuna Journal of Science by University of Ruhuna is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

eISSN: 2536-8400

Print ISSN: 1800-279X (Before 2014)