Environmental selection, rather than neutral processes, best explain regional patterns of diversity in a tropical rainforest fish

Katie Gates, Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo, Chris J. Brauer, Peter J. Unmack, Martin Laporte, Louis Bernatchez, Luciano B. Beheregaray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


To conserve the high functional and genetic variation in hotspots such as tropical rainforests, it is essential to understand the forces driving and maintaining biodiversity. We asked to what extent environmental gradients and terrain structure affect morphological and genomic variation across the wet tropical distribution of an Australian rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida splendida. We used an integrative riverscape genomics and morphometrics framework to assess the influence of these factors on both putative adaptive and non-adaptive spatial divergence. We found that neutral genetic population structure was largely explainable by restricted gene flow among drainages. However, environmental associations revealed that ecological variables had a similar power to explain overall genetic variation, and greater power to explain body shape variation, than the included neutral covariables. Hydrological and thermal variables were the strongest environmental predictors and were correlated with traits previously linked to heritable habitat-associated dimorphism in rainbowfishes. In addition, climate-associated genetic variation was significantly associated with morphology, supporting heritability of shape variation. These results support the inference of evolved functional differences among localities, and the importance of hydroclimate in early stages of diversification. We expect that substantial evolutionary responses will be required in tropical rainforest endemics to mitigate local fitness losses due to changing climates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-380
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Early online date30 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Evolution
  • Genetics


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