Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 205–227 | Cite as

Effects of an adaptive zone shift on morphological and ecological diversification in terapontid fishes

  • Aaron M. DavisEmail author
  • Peter J. Unmack
  • Bradley J. Pusey
  • Richard G. Pearson
  • David L. Morgan
Original Paper


A fundamental goal of evolutionary ecology is understanding the processes responsible for contemporary patterns of morphological diversity and species richness. Transitions across the marine–freshwater interface are regarded as key triggers for adaptive radiation of many clades. Using the Australian terapontid fish family as a model system we employed phylogenetic analyses to compare the rates of ecological (dietary) and morphological evolution between marine and freshwater species of the family. Results suggested significantly higher rates of phenotypic evolution in key dietary and morphological characters in freshwater species compared to marine counterparts. Moreover, there was significant correlation between several of these dietary and morphological characters, suggesting an underlying ecomorphological aspect to these greater rates of phenotypic evolution in freshwater clades. Australia’s biogeographic history, which has precluded colonisation by many of the major ostariophysan fish families that make up much global freshwater fish diversity, appears to have provided the requisite ‘ecological opportunity’ to facilitate the radiation of invading marine-derived fish clades.


Dietary radiation Morphological disparity Marine–freshwater transition Trophic ecology Ecomorphology 



For their efforts in helping to collect and/or provide specimens, we thank Mark Adams, Gerald Allen, Jon Armbruster, Michael Baltzly, Cindy Bessey, Joshua Brown, Christopher Burridge, Stephen Caldwell, Adam Fletcher, David Galeotti, Chris Hallett, Michael Hammer, Jeff Johnson, Mark Kennard, Adam Kerezsy, Alfred Ko’ou, Andrew McDougall, Masaki Miya, Sue Morrison, Tim Page, Colton Perna, Ikising Petasi, Michael Pusey, Ross Smith and the Hydrobiology team, Dean Thorburn and the staff from ERISS and Northern Territory Fisheries. Additional samples for genetic work were provided by the Australian, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australian, Western Australian, University of Kansas and the Smithsonian museums, and we thank their staff and donors. Field collection was partly funded by the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust National Competitive Component and Land and Water Australia. PJU was supported by the W.M. Keck Foundation, R.M. Parsons Foundation, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), NSF #EF-0905606. Two anonymous reviewers are thanked for input that greatly improved the final manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 604 kb)
10682_2013_9671_MOESM2_ESM.pptx (372 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PPTX 372 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron M. Davis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter J. Unmack
    • 2
    • 3
  • Bradley J. Pusey
    • 4
  • Richard G. Pearson
    • 5
  • David L. Morgan
    • 6
  1. 1.Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), and School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.National Evolutionary Synthesis CenterDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Applied Ecology and Collaborative Research Network for Murray-Darling Basin FuturesUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of Western AustraliaAlbanyAustralia
  5. 5.School of Marine and Tropical Biology and TropWaterJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  6. 6.Freshwater Fish Group and Fish Health UnitMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

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