Niche divergence facilitated by fine-scale ecological partitioning in a recent cichlid fish adaptive radiation

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2016
Authors:A. G. P. Ford, Ruber, L. , Newton, J. , Dasmahapatra, K. K. , Balarin, J. D. , Bruun, K. , Day, J. J.
Date Published:09/2016
Type of Article:epub 23 September 2016 ahead of print; open access
Keywords:Alcolapia, Ecomorphology, Geometric morphometrics, herbivorous diversification, soda lakes, stable isotopes

Ecomorphological differentiation is a key feature of adaptive radiations, with a general trend for specialisation and niche expansion following divergence. Ecological opportunity afforded by invasion of a new habitat is thought to act as an ecological release, facilitating divergence and speciation. Here, we investigate trophic adaptive morphology and ecology of an endemic clade of oreochromine cichlid fishes (Alcolapia) that radiated along a herbivorous trophic axis following colonisation of an isolated lacustrine environment, and demonstrate phenotype-environment correlation. Ecological and morphological divergence of the Alcolapia species flock are examined in a phylogenomic context, to infer ecological niche occupation within the radiation. Species divergence is observed in both ecology and morphology, supporting the importance of ecological speciation within the radiation. Comparison with an outgroup taxon reveals large-scale ecomorphological divergence but shallow genomic differentiation within the Alcolapia adaptive radiation. Ancestral morphological reconstruction suggests lake colonisation by a generalist oreochromine phenotype that diverged in Lake Natron to varied herbivorous morphologies akin to specialist herbivores in Lakes Tanganyika and Malawi.

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