We studied the fish Telestes karsticus, which occurs in a hydrological system consisting of an interconnected stream and a cave in Croatia. We found out that it resided year-round and spawned in Sušik cave, making it the first known cavefish in the Dinaric Karst.
Also cave and surface populations differed in morphological and physiological characteristics, as well as in patterns of gene expression without any evidence of genetic divergence. To test whether observed trait
differences were plastic or genetic, we placed adult fish from both populations under light/dark or constant dark conditions in the laboratory.
We found out that T. karsticus can adapt to cave conditions, with phenotypic plasticity playing an important role in the process of cave colonization. Our study also revealed that specialized cave traits were not solely attributed to developmental plasticity, but also arose from adult responses, including acclimatization.
Čupić, M., Marčić, Z., Lukić, M., Gračan, R. and Bilandžija, H., 2023. The first cavefish in the Dinaric Karst? Cave colonization made possible by phenotypic plasticity in Telestes karsticus. Zoological Research, 44(4), p.821. DOI: 0.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2022.528