Publication Date

Summer 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Michael L. Collyer (Director), Steve H. Huskey, and Carl. W. Dick

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Drastic alterations to the North American Southwest’s hydrology have highly influenced resident fish communities. In New Mexico and Texas, the Pecos River has been severely altered as a result of water manipulation, isolating backwaters and various habitats that were once connected to the main river. Cyprinodon pecosensis (Pecos pupfish) has been highly impacted due to the effects of anthropogenic water manipulation, as well as species introductions. Cyprinodon pecosensis populations have become isolated and scattered, residing in sinkholes, remnant lakes, and static backwaters, thus creating numerous micropopulations. The purpose of this study was to assess the morphological variation in cranial features that occur in response to varied habitats, especially in terms of environmental factors and species co-occurrence. Landmark-based geometric morphometrics was used to assess shape variation across the aforementioned micropopulations comprising four general habitat types and 27 different localities, each with varied community structure and salinity. Results from this study suggest that head and mandible morphology vary temporally, with year to year variation, as well as among different localities. The head morphology of C. pecosensis was most heavily influenced by habitat type and localities within habitat types, but was largely canalized with the exception of localities classified as deep sinkholes. Year to year variation and localities among habitat types were the most influential factors associated with mandible morphology, but there was strong overlap among the convex hulls that defined regions of morphospace for habitat types. As C. pecosensis is a threatened species, this research has important implications for future conservation and management. Additionally, these results could further aid in the understanding of preserving species in fragmented landscapes.


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology