Effects of an adaptive zone shift on morphological and ecological diversification in terapontid fishes

Research paper by Aaron M. Davis, Peter J. Unmack, Bradley J. Pusey, Richard G. Pearson, David L. Morgan

Indexed on: 14 Sep '13Published on: 14 Sep '13Published in: Evolutionary Ecology


A fundamental goal of evolutionary ecology is understanding the processes responsible for contemporary patterns of morphological diversity and species richness. Transitions across the marine–freshwater interface are regarded as key triggers for adaptive radiation of many clades. Using the Australian terapontid fish family as a model system we employed phylogenetic analyses to compare the rates of ecological (dietary) and morphological evolution between marine and freshwater species of the family. Results suggested significantly higher rates of phenotypic evolution in key dietary and morphological characters in freshwater species compared to marine counterparts. Moreover, there was significant correlation between several of these dietary and morphological characters, suggesting an underlying ecomorphological aspect to these greater rates of phenotypic evolution in freshwater clades. Australia’s biogeographic history, which has precluded colonisation by many of the major ostariophysan fish families that make up much global freshwater fish diversity, appears to have provided the requisite ‘ecological opportunity’ to facilitate the radiation of invading marine-derived fish clades.