Title page for ETD etd-02122002-153708

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Bunt, Thomas Michael
Author's Email Address tbunt@vt.edu
URN etd-02122002-153708
Degree Master of Science
Department Biology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Turner, Bruce J. Committee Chair
Hallerman, Eric M. Committee Member
Walters, Jeffery R. Committee Member
  • mtDNA control region
  • Cytochrome b
  • Trophic polymorphism
  • Speciation
  • Species pairs
  • Cyprinodon variegatus
  • Species flocks
Date of Defense 2001-05-08
Availability unrestricted
The study of the process of speciation is instrumental to understanding the species diversity observed today. Diverging populations are intriguing, because speciation has not reached an endpoint, yet the process that may eventually lead to distinct species can be studied. Systems that contain many putative species and/or parallel divergences, such as many species flocks and species pairs, are extraordinary examples of divergence and therefore are critical to the understanding of the speciation process. A "miniature" species flock of pupfish (Cyprinodon variegatus) discovered in lakes on San Salvador Island, Bahamas has evolved in less than 6 000 years, and is, therefore, important to the study of the pace of evolutionary processes. The San Salvador Island pupfish flock is composed of a normal form, which resembles coastal C. variegatus, and bulldog and bozo morphs, which diverge ecologically and morphologically from the normal morph.

In Chapter 1, I sequenced the mtDNA control region and used haplotype frequency analyses to assess the level of differentiation between sympatric normals and bulldogs sampled from Osprey Lake and Little Lake on San Salvador Island. The bozo morph was too rare to include in the study. I also included samples of normals that occur in lakes without bulldog and bozo morphs to assess any differences between lakes on the island. All haplotype frequency comparisons for sympatric normals and bulldogs were highly significant, which suggests these morphs are distinct populations in sympatry and, therefore, have characteristics of biological species. Further, an estimation of Time for Speciation supports geological data that suggest this fauna is very young (6 000 years). The San Salvador Island pupfish species flock is, therefore, the youngest known species flock and presents an important model system for the study of how morphological and ecological divergence can promote speciation in Cyprinodon.

In Chapter 2, I first compared the San Salvador Island pupfishes to other Bahamian C. variegatus populations to assess the level of inter- and intra-island pupfish population differentiation in the Bahamas. The mtDNA control region was sequenced for bulldogs and normals from San Salvador Island and normals sampled from New Providence and Exuma Islands. San Salvador Island bulldogs were found to be distinct from all normal populations sampled, and comparisons of shared haplotypes suggest they originated on San Salvador Island rather than any of the other islands sampled. This was intriguing, because a "bulldog-like" morph has recently been observed in a lake on New Providence Island, which suggests parallel divergences may be occurring throughout the Bahamas. I also sequenced the mtDNA cytochrome b gene to assess the phylogeography of C. variegatus. Populations were sampled from the Bahamas and the east coast of North America, and the results suggest the Bahamas were only recently colonized by the Southern coastal lineage of C. variegatus. A distinct Northern lineage of C. variegatus, which may warrant species designation, was also supported by the cytochrome b data. Overall, the results supported a San Salvador Island origin for the Little Lake and Osprey Lake bulldog morphs, and also suggest the Bahamian C. variegatus populations are very young.

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