Fish occupy a range of hydrological habitats that exert different demands on locomotor performance. We examined replicate natural populations of the rainbow fishes Melanotaenia eachamensis and M. duboulayi to determine if colonization of low-velocity (lake) habitats by fish from high-velocity (stream) habitats resulted in adaptation of locomotor morphology and performance. Relative to stream conspecifics, lake fish had more posteriorly positioned first dorsal and pelvic fins, and shorter second dorsal fin bases. Habitat dimorphism observed between wild-caught fish was determined to be heritable as it was retained in M. eachamensis offspring raised in a common garden. Repeated evolution of the same heritable phenotype in independently derived populations indicated body shape divergence was a consequence of natural selection. Morphological divergence between hydrological habitats did not support a priori expectations of deeper bodies and caudal peduncles in lake fish. However, observed divergence in fin positioning was consistent with a family-wide association between habitat and morphology, and with empirical studies on other fish species. As predicted, decreased demand for sustained swimming in lakes resulted in a reduction in caudal red muscle area of lake fish relative to their stream counterparts. Melanotaenia duboulayi lake fish also had slower sustained swimming speeds (Ucrit) than stream conspecifics. In M. eachamensis, habitat affected Ucrit of males and females differently. Specifically, females exhibited the pattern observed in M. duboulayi (lake fish had faster Ucrit than stream fish), but the opposite association was observed in males (stream males had slower Ucrit than lake males). Stream M. eachamensis also exhibited a reversed pattern of sexual dimorphism in Ucrit (males slower than females) relative to all other groups (males faster than females). We suggest that M. eachamensis males from streams responded to factors other than water velocity. Although replication of muscle and Ucrit phenotypes across same habitat populations within and/or among species was suggestive of adaptation, the common garden experiment did not confirm a genetic basis to these associations. Kinematic studies should consider the effect of the position and base length of dorsal fins.
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Vol. 57 • No. 1