Skip to main content

Data from: The evolution of pharyngognathy: a phylogenetic and functional appraisal of the pharyngeal jaw key innovation in labroid fishes and beyond

Cite this dataset

Wainwright, Peter C. et al. (2012). Data from: The evolution of pharyngognathy: a phylogenetic and functional appraisal of the pharyngeal jaw key innovation in labroid fishes and beyond [Dataset]. Dryad.


The perciform group Labroidei includes approximately 2,500 species and comprises some of the most diverse and successful lineages of teleost fishes. Composed of four major clades, Cichlidae, Labridae (wrasses, parrotfishes and weed whitings), Pomacentridae (damselfishes), and Embiotocidae (surfperches), labroids have been an icon for studies of biodiversity, adaptive radiation, and sexual selection. The success and diversification of labroids have been largely attributed to the presence of a major innovation in the pharyngeal jaw apparatus, pharyngognathy, which is hypothesized to increase feeding capacity and versatility. We present results of large-scale phylogenetic analyses and a survey of pharyngeal jaw functional morphology, that allow us to examine the evolution of pharyngognathy in a historical context. Phylogenetic analyses were based on a sample of 188 acanthomorph species, primarily percomorphs, and DNA sequence data collected from ten nuclear loci that have been previously used to resolve higher-level ray-finned fish relationships. Phylogenies inferred from this dataset using maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses indicate polyphyly of the traditional Labroidei and clearly separate Labridae from the remainder of the traditional labroid lineages (Cichlidae, Embiotocidae, and Pomacentridae). These three “chromide” families all grouped together within a newly discovered clade of 40 families and more than 5,300+ species (>30% of percomorphs and >17% of all ray-finned fishes), which we name Ovalentaria for its characteristic demersal, adhesive eggs with chorionic filaments. This fantastically diverse clade includes some of the most species-rich lineages of marine and freshwater fishes, including all representatives of the Cichlidae, Embiotocidae, Pomacentridae, Ambassidae, Gobiesocidae, Grammatidae, Mugilidae, Opistognathidae, Pholidichthyidae, Plesiopidae (including Notograptus), Polycentridae, Pseudochromidae, Atherinomorpha, and Blennioidei. Beyond the discovery of Ovalentaria, this study provides a surprising, but well-supported, hypothesis for a convict-blenny (Pholidichthys) sister group to the charismatic cichlids and new insights into the evolution of pharyngognathy. Bayesian stochastic mapping ancestral state reconstructions indicate pharyngognathy has evolved at least six times in percomorphs, including four separate origins in members of the former Labroidei, one origin in the Centrogenyidae, and one origin within Beloniformes. Our analyses indicate that all pharyngognathous fishes have a mechanically efficient biting mechanism enabled by the muscular sling and a single lower jaw element. However, a major distinction exists between Labridae, which lacks the widespread, generalized percomorph pharyngeal biting mechanism, and all other pharyngognathous clades, which possess this generalized biting mechanism in addition to pharyngognathy. This suggests that labrids have a functionally more restricted pharyngeal system than all other pharyngognathous clades.

Usage notes