Effect of Preservation on Fish Morphology Over Time: Implications for Morphological Studies
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It has long been recognized that the process of preserving biological specimens results in alterations of body shape, though detailed studies examining the degree to which morphological changes occur throughout the preservation process are lacking. We utilize geometric morphometric analyses, an increasingly common tool for examining shape variation in a wide variety of biological disciplines, to examine the effects of formalin and ethanol preservation on the body shape of 10 freshwater fish species over time: from fresh specimens to eight weeks after preservation. We found significant changes in body shape among fresh and formalin fixed specimens. Furthermore, changes in body shape continue to occur after subsequent ethanol preservation. Two fish species collected at multiple localities show significant morphological differences for a limited number of morphometric characters. However, the significance, or lack thereof, often changed inconsistently from one stage of preservation to another. We conclude that morphometric analyses would ideally be performed on fresh specimens. However, recognizing that this is not always feasible, it is important to be aware of the morphometric changes that can occur during preservation.