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Adaptation to herbivory and detritivory drives the convergent evolution of large abdominal cavities in a diverse freshwater fish radiation (Otophysi: Characiformes)

Citation

Burns, Michael (2020), Adaptation to herbivory and detritivory drives the convergent evolution of large abdominal cavities in a diverse freshwater fish radiation (Otophysi: Characiformes), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.rfj6q578r

Abstract

Convergent evolution is often interpreted as evidence of natural selection favoring an optimal phenotype during adaptation. Morphological convergence is frequently found among lineages that converge on diet, but most studies have focused on morphological traits that relate exclusively to food handling and processing. In vertebrates, there is a strong inverse relationship between intestine length and trophic level.  However, little is known about whether adaptation to a low trophic level influences the evolution of abdominal cavities that can accommodate larger intestines. Here, I reconstruct the evolutionary history of trophic ecology and examine abdominal cavity shape across 157 species of the fish order Characiformes to determine whether adaptation to an herbivorous-detritivorous diet drives convergent evolution of large abdominal cavities. Herbivorous-detritivorous species evolved significantly larger abdominal cavities than other trophic groups and repeatedly converged on a similar abdominal cavity morphology. Other trophic groups evolved abdominal cavity morphologies either stochastically or by selective pressures from an untested ecological character. These findings demonstrate that the selective demands of a larger intestinal tract promote the repeated convergence of a large abdominal cavity within herbivorous-detritivorous characiform fishes, while allowing other lineages to evolve randomly or adapt in response to other selection pressures, contributing to the overall body shape diversity of the order.