Hendry AP, Peichel CL, Matthews B, Boughman JW & Nosil P. (2013) Stickleback research: the now and the next. Introduction to 3 volume special issue: Evolutionary Ecology Research. 15: 111-141.

 

Background: Stickleback fishes are an outstanding model for understanding evolution and ecology. Celebrating successes and identifying new questions, the Seventh International Conference on Stickleback Behaviour and Evolution was held 29 July to 3 August 2012 near Seattle, Washington, USA.

Questions: How has research on stickleback shaped our understanding of phenotypic variation, genomic variation, speciation, and eco-evolutionary dynamics? How is future research on stickleback likely to advance these topics?

Phenotypic variation: Stickleback show exceptional variation at a diversity of spatial scales, which has yielded insights not only into how natural selection shapes evolutionary diversification, but also how the influence of natural selection can be constrained. Future research would profit from examining temporal variation in selection and the multifarious nature of selection.

Genomic variation: Stickleback adapted to different environments show widespread, but heterogeneous, genomic differentiation that is often associated with variation in recombination rate and that shows both parallel and non-parallel patterns. Profitable areas for future research include identifying the links between genotype–phenotype–fitness, the processes generating genomic patterns of differentiation, the mechanisms underlying variation in recombination, and the spread of chromosomal inversions.

Speciation: Stickleback research has shaped our understanding of ecological speciation, the factors that promote and constrain it, and the traits involved in reproductive isolation. More work is needed in all these areas, as well as in the genomics of speciation and the alternatives to ecological speciation.

Eco-evolutionary dynamics: Stickleback adapted to different environments have differential effects on community and ecosystem variables in mesocosms. Future work should investigate the strength and form of these effects in nature, the importance of plastic and genetic contributions, and the nature of feedbacks between ecology and evolution.

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