Skip to main content

Data from: The rise of biting during the cenozoic fueled reef fish body shape diversification

Cite this dataset

Corn, Katherine et al. (2022). Data from: The rise of biting during the cenozoic fueled reef fish body shape diversification [Dataset]. Dryad.


Diversity of feeding mechanisms is a hallmark of reef fishes, but the history of this variation is not fully understood. Here, we explore the emergence and proliferation of a biting mode of feeding, which enables fishes to feed on attached benthic prey. We find that feeding modes other than suction, including biting, ram biting, and an intermediate group that uses both biting and suction, were nearly absent among the lineages of teleost fishes inhabiting reefs prior to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, but benthic biting has rapidly increased in frequency since then, to account for about 40% of reef species today. Further, we measured the impact of feeding mode on body shape diversification in reef fishes. We fit a model of multivariate character evolution to a dataset comprising three-dimensional body shape of 1,530 species of teleost reef fishes across 111 families. Dedicated biters have accumulated over half of the body shape variation that suction feeders have in just 18% of the evolutionary time by evolving body shape ~1.7 times faster than suction feeders. As a possible response to the ecological and functional diversity of attached prey, biters have dynamically evolved both into shapes that resemble suction feeders as well as novel body forms characterized by lateral compression and small jaws. The ascendance of species that use biting mechanisms to feed on attached prey reshaped modern reef fish assemblages and has been a major contributor to their ecological and phenotypic diversification.

Usage notes

Manuscript currently in press at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1556953

American Association of University Women

Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation

UC Davis Center for Population Biology