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The impact of paleoclimatic changes on body size evolution in marine fishes

Cite this dataset

Troyer, Emily et al. (2023). The impact of paleoclimatic changes on body size evolution in marine fishes [Dataset]. Dryad.


Body size is an important species trait, correlating with lifespan, fecundity, and other ecological factors. Over Earth’s geological history, climate shifts have occurred, potentially shaping body size evolution in many clades. General rules attempting to summarize body size evolution include Bergmann’s rule, which states that species grow to larger sizes in cooler environments and smaller sizes in warmer environments; and Cope’s rule, which poses that lineages tend to increase in size over evolutionary time. Tetraodontiform fishes (including pufferfishes, boxfishes, and ocean sunfishes) provide an extraordinary clade to test these rules in ectotherms owing to their exemplary fossil record and the great disparity in body size observed among extant and fossil species. We examined Bergmann’s and Cope’s rules in this group by combining phylogenomic data (1,103 exon loci from 185 extant species) with 210 anatomical characters coded from both fossil and extant species. We aggregated data layers on paleoclimate and body size from the species examined, then inferred a set of time-calibrated phylogenies using tip-dating approaches for use in downstream comparative analyses of body size evolution using models that incorporate paleoclimatic information. We find strong support for a temperature-driven model in which increasing body size over time is correlated with decreasing oceanic temperatures. On average, extant tetraodontiforms are 2–3 times larger than their fossil counterparts, which otherwise evolved during periods of warmer ocean temperatures. These results provide strong support for both Bergmann’s and Cope’s rules, trends that are less studied in marine fishes compared to terrestrial vertebrates and marine invertebrates.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-2015404

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-2144325

National Science Foundation, Award: DBI-2131464

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1932759

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1929248

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1457426

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1541554

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1541552