Ecology of life history variation in the sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna) in impounded mangrove marsh of the Indian River Lagoon, Florida
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Citation of Original PublicationKemp, Stanley Joseph, "Ecology of life history variation in the sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna) in impounded mangrove marsh of the Indian River Lagoon, Florida" (2004).
Effects of environmental change can be very complex and multifaceted, and as a result, the greatest challenge facing ecologists today is the prediction of the effects of these changes on populations of organisms. This dissertation is a study of the effects of an ecosystem-wide alteration of habitat on the life history of populations of a resident organism. Sailfin molly ( Poecilia latipinna ) populations residing in mangrove habitats affected by impoundment provide an ideal opportunity to study ecological aspects of environmental change. Much previous research on the life history of sailfin mollies and mosquito impoundments has been done independently, and the goal of this study was to couple this information with system- specific study to outline the chain of causation of life history patterns in the sailfin molly observed in this system. Following a system-wide survey to identify life history patterns of the sailfin molly in relation to impoundment (Chapter 2), it was found that significant variation existed related to impoundment for two traits: adult body size and somatic lipid content. Research centered on three likely effects impoundment may have had on the growth, survival, and reproduction of sailfin mollies in the impounded mangrove habitat to produce these life history patterns: (1) changes in physical conditions (Chapters 3-4), (2) fish species assemblages (Chapter 5), and (3) through changes in diet (Chapter 6). Impoundment was significantly related to all three of the factors studied. However, the relationship between the variation in the factors studied and life history patterns was not immediately apparent. While much research has been done on sailfin mollies and mosquito impoundments independently, results of this study suggest an entirely different pattern of causation than that observed in other studies. Taken together, they suggest an entirely new series of hypotheses centered on the interaction between specific effects of impoundment. The results of this study support the hypothesis that the factors linking impoundment to life history patterns in the sailfin molly are multiple and possibly interacting, and also raise questions regarding the generality of ecological studies outside of the particular system in question.