The use of geometric morphometrics in understanding shape variability of sclerotized haptoral structures of monogeneans (Platyhelminthes) with insights into biogeographic variability

Matthias Vignon, Pierre Sasal
Parasitology International 2010, 59 (2): 183-91
The sclerotized attachment organ of monogeneans has been widely used to address fundamental questions in ecology and evolution. However, traditional morphometric techniques appear to be partially inadequate and non-optimal. Traditional linear measurements mainly provide information on the size of sclerites but provide very little information, if any, on their shape. The shape of sclerites is indeed virtually unexplored and its implication for ecological and evolutionary processes remains to be analyzed. This study aims to both introduce and illustrate the use of geometric morphometrics in order to study sclerites of monogeneans in a biogeographic context. To do this, we investigated morphological variation patterns among four populations from the Pacific Ocean and six monogenean species through traditional and geometric morphometric techniques. Unlike the traditional method, the geometric morphometric method yielded a high percentage of individuals correctly classified to the four populations, providing strong evidence for phenotypic variability, divergence and local adaptation among islands without evolutionary constraint. Moreover, the traditional method also resulted in inconsistent interpretations of shape variations. This study highlighted the limitations that may arise when using traditional morphometric techniques and emphasizes that considerable information about the shape of sclerotized haptoral parts is added by using geometric morphometrics. Given the prominent taxonomic, ecological and evolutionary role of the haptor for characterizing monogeneans, we ultimately discuss the potential broad use of geometric morphometrics in a wide variety of ecological and evolutionary contexts. This powerful approach might allow a more robust estimation of the extent to which traditional evolutionary theories based on size of sclerites are congruent with their shape.

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