Ecomorphological analysis of cyprinds in the Mobile Bay Basin
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
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Ecomorphology is the study of variations in morphology and how it relates to organisms’ various life histories or ecologies. Phenetic packing/dispersal studies analyzes morphologies of community members and sees how the phenotypes overlap. Because an organism’s ecology is often manifested in morphological traits, phenotypic overlap can act as a proxy for ecological or niche overlap. The cyprinids of the Mobile Bay Basin are both diverse in species and in their morphologies which makes them an ideal group for a phenetic packing/dispersal studies. Average nearest neighbor distance statistics are utilized in these studies to determine the degree of packing/dispersal. Packing remained relatively the same throughout all communities examined in the Mobile Bay Basin. However, when introduced species were added to the cyprinid communities, the introduced species from elsewhere in North America showed high overlap with native species in Mobile Bay Basin. These species have yet to successfully colonize the basin. The overlap suggests that the introduced North American species are being outcompeted by native species. Introduced Asian cyprinids have successfully colonized the basin and show no overlap, indicating potentially that they occupy niches not filled by native species. Therefore, morphology can aid in predicting whether introduced species will successfully invade a new ecosystem.