Pease JE, TB Grabowski, AP Pease, & PT Bean. 2018. Changing environmental gradients over forty years alter ecomorphological variation in Guadalupe Bass Micropterus treculii throughout a river basin. Ecology and Evolution 8:8508-8522. doi: 10.1002/ece3.4349.
Understanding the degree of intraspecific variation within and among populations is a key aspect of predicting the capacity of a species to respond to anthropogenic disturbances. However, intraspecific variation is usually assessed at either limited temporal, but broad spatial scales or vice versa, which can make assessing changes in response to long-term disturbances challenging. We evaluated the relationship between the longitudinal gradient of changing flow regimes and land use/land cover patterns since 1980 and morphological variation of Guadalupe Bass Micropterus treculii throughout the Colorado River Basin of central Texas. The Colorado River Basin in Texas has experienced major alterations to the hydrologic regime due to changing land and water-use patterns. Historical collections of Guadalupe Bass prior to rapid human-induced change present the unique opportunity to study the response of populations to varying environmental conditions through space and time. Morphological differentiation of Guadalupe Bass associated with temporal changes in flow regimes and land use/land cover patterns suggests that they are exhibiting intraspecific trait variability, with contemporary individuals showing increased body depth, in response to environmental alteration through time (specifically related to an increase in herbaceous land cover, maximum flows, and the number of low pulses and high pulses). Additionally, individuals from tributaries with increased hydrologic alteration associated with urbanization or agricultural withdrawals tended to have a greater distance between the anal and caudal fin. These results reveal trait variation that may help to buffer populations under conditions of increased urbanization and sprawl, human population growth, and climate risk, all of which impose novel selective pressures, especially on endemic species like Guadalupe Bass. Our results contribute an understanding of the adaptability and capacity of an endemic population to respond to future changes expected based on demographic or climatic projection.