Reef-associated fishes have more maneuverable body shapes at a macroevolutionary scale

A Correction to this article was published on 14 August 2020

This article has been updated

Abstract

Marine habitats vary widely in structure, from incredibly complex coral reefs to simpler deep water and open ocean habitats. Hydromechanical models of swimming kinematics and microevolutionary studies suggest that these habitats select for different body shape characteristics. Fishes living in simple habitats are predicted to experience selection for energy-efficient sustained swimming, which can be achieved by fusiform body shapes. In contrast, fishes living in complex habitats are predicted to be under selection for maneuverability, which can be enhanced by deep-bodied and laterally compressed forms. To look for a signature of these processes at a broad macroevolutionary scale, we quantified the body shapes of 3322 species of marine teleostean fishes using a series of linear measurements. We scored each species for whether they were reef-associated or not and tested for morphological differences using a phylogenetic framework. Our results confirmed significant overall shape differences between reef-associated teleosts and those occupying structurally simpler marine habitats. Reef-associated species have, on average, deeper bodies and higher depth-to-width ratios, while non-reef species are more streamlined with narrower and shallower caudal peduncles. Despite the numerous evolutionary forces that may influence body shapes on a broad macroevolutionary scale, our results reveal differences in body shapes between reef-associated and non-reef species that are consistent with hydromechanical models of swimming kinematics as well as with microevolutionary patterns.

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Acknowledgements

Support for the research was provided by National Science Foundation grant DEB-1830127 to SAP & PCW, with additional support by Clemson University’s Creative Inquiry program for undergraduate research. We wish to thank Nicholas Hix, Carley McGlinn, Hannah Wells and Lucas McCutcheon for their participation in developing the research question and generating preliminary results. We are also grateful to the curators and staff of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Division of Fishes for their support during the three summers of data collection.

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Larouche, O., Benton, B., Corn, K.A. et al. Reef-associated fishes have more maneuverable body shapes at a macroevolutionary scale. Coral Reefs 39, 1427–1439 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-020-01976-w

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Keywords

  • Habitat structural complexity
  • Fish body shapes
  • Fish swimming
  • Macroevolution
  • Morphological diversity