Lake Malawi cichlid evolution along a benthic/limnetic axis.
ABSTRACT: Divergence along a benthic to limnetic habitat axis is ubiquitous in aquatic systems. However, this type of habitat divergence has largely been examined in low diversity, high latitude lake systems. In this study, we examined the importance of benthic and limnetic divergence within the incredibly species-rich radiation of Lake Malawi cichlid fishes. Using novel phylogenetic reconstructions, we provided a series of hypotheses regarding the evolutionary relationships among 24 benthic and limnetic species that suggests divergence along this axis has occurred multiple times within Lake Malawi cichlids. Because pectoral fin morphology is often associated with divergence along this habitat axis in other fish groups, we investigated divergence in pectoral fin muscles in these benthic and limnetic cichlid species. We showed that the eight pectoral fin muscles and fin area generally tended to evolve in a tightly correlated manner in the Lake Malawi cichlids. Additionally, we found that larger pectoral fin muscles are strongly associated with the independent evolution of the benthic feeding habit across this group of fish. Evolutionary specialization along a benthic/limnetic axis has occurred multiple times within this tropical lake radiation and has produced repeated convergent matching between exploitation of water column habitats and locomotory morphology.
Project description:The evolution of body shape reflects both the ecological factors structuring organismal diversity as well as an organism's underlying anatomy. For instance, body depth in fishes is thought to determine their susceptibility to predators, attractiveness to mates, as well as swimming performance. However, the internal anatomy influencing diversification of body depth has not been extensively examined, and changes in body depth could arise as a by-product of functional changes in other anatomical structures. Using an improved phylogenetic hypothesis for a diverse set of Lake Malawi cichlid fishes, we tested the evolutionary association between body depth and the height of the pectoral girdle. To refine the functional importance of the observed substantial correlation, we also tested the coevolution of pectoral girdle height and pectoral fin area. The extensive coevolution of these traits suggests body depth in fishes like the Lake Malawi cichlids could diverge simply as a by-product of being tightly linked to ecomorphological divergence in other functional morphological structures like the pectoral fins.
Project description:A common pattern of adaptive diversification in freshwater fishes is the repeated evolution of elongated open water (limnetic) species and high-bodied shore (benthic) species from generalist ancestors. Studies on phenotype-diet correlations have suggested that population-wide individual specialization occurs at an early evolutionary and ecological stage of divergence and niche partitioning. This variable restricted niche use across individuals can provide the raw material for earliest stages of sympatric divergence. We investigated variation in morphology and diet as well as their correlations along the benthic-limnetic axis in an extremely young Midas cichlid species, Amphilophus tolteca, endemic to the Nicaraguan crater lake Asososca Managua. We found that A. tolteca varied continuously in ecologically relevant traits such as body shape and lower pharyngeal jaw morphology. The correlation of these phenotypes with niche suggested that individuals are specialized along the benthic-limnetic axis. No genetic differentiation within the crater lake was detected based on genotypes from 13 microsatellite loci. Overall, we found that individual specialization in this young crater lake species encompasses the limnetic-as well as the benthic macro-habitat. Yet there is no evidence for any diversification within the species, making this a candidate system for studying what might be the early stages preceding sympatric divergence. A common pattern of adaptive diversification in freshwater fishes is the repeated evolution of open water (limnetic) species and of shore (benthic) species. Individual specialization can reflect earliest stages of evolutionary and ecological divergence. We here demonstrate individual specialization along the benthic-limnetic axis in a young adaptive radiation of crater lake cichlid fishes.
Project description:Coregonid fishes are among the most successful groups in the subarctic, boreal, and subalpine fresh waters of the northern hemisphere. Limnetic-benthic sympatric species-pairs from two different evolutionary lineages, the North American lake whitefish (<i>Coregonus clupeaformis</i> species complex), and the European whitefish (<i>Coregonus lavaretus</i> species complex), are becoming the subject of close attention to explore the role of natural selection during the ecological speciation. Baikal endemic coregonids, limnetic omul (<i>Coregonus migratorius</i>), and benthic lacustrine whitefish (<i>Coregonus baicalensis</i>) are the only representatives of another unique lineage that has not left the lake since the divergence from the two above. Due to Pleistocene oscillations sympatric limnetic-benthic divergence has been replicated here many times within the same water body over a long geological period in contrast to both Europe and America where sympatric species-pairs are the results of post-glacial secondary-contacts between glacial isolates during the Late Pleistocene on the territory of each continent. Mitochondrial genomes encode genes that are essential for respiration and metabolism. Data on complete mitogenomes of Baikal endemic coregonids provided here will complement ongoing investigations on energy metabolism as the main biological function involved in the divergence between limnetic and benthic whitefish.
Project description:The independent evolution of the two toothed jaws of cichlid fishes is thought to have promoted their unparalleled ecological divergence and species richness. However, dental divergence in cichlids could exhibit substantial genetic covariance and this could dictate how traits like tooth numbers evolve in different African Lakes and on their two jaws. To test this hypothesis, we used a hybrid mapping cross of two trophically divergent Lake Victoria species (<i>Haplochromis chilotes</i> × <i>Haplochromis nyererei</i>) to examine genomic regions associated with cichlid tooth diversity. Surprisingly, a similar genomic region was found to be associated with oral jaw tooth numbers in cichlids from both Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria. Likewise, this same genomic location was associated with variation in pharyngeal jaw tooth numbers. Similar relationships between tooth numbers on the two jaws in both our Victoria hybrid population and across the phylogenetic diversity of Malawi cichlids additionally suggests that tooth numbers on the two jaws of haplochromine cichlids might generally coevolve owing to shared genetic underpinnings. Integrated, rather than independent, genomic architectures could be key to the incomparable evolutionary divergence and convergence in cichlid tooth numbers.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The enormous diversity found in East African cichlid fishes in terms of morphology, coloration, and behavior have made them a model for the study of speciation and adaptive evolution. In particular, haplochromine cichlids, by far the most species-rich lineage of cichlids, are a well-known textbook example for parallel evolution. Southwestern Uganda is an area of high tectonic activity, and is home to numerous crater lakes. Many Ugandan crater lakes were colonized, apparently independently, by a single lineage of haplochromine cichlids. Thereby, this system could be considered a natural experiment in which one can study the interaction between geographical isolation and natural selection promoting phenotypic diversification. RESULTS:We sampled 13 crater lakes and six potentially-ancestral older lakes and, using both mitochondrial and microsatellite markers, discovered strong genetic and morphological differentiation whereby (a) geographically close lakes tend to be genetically more similar and (b) three different geographic areas seem to have been colonized by three independent waves of colonization from the same source population. Using a geometric morphometric approach, we found that body shape elongation (i.e. a limnetic morphology) evolved repeatedly from the ancestral deeper-bodied benthic morphology in the clear and deep crater lake habitats. CONCLUSIONS:A pattern of strong genetic and morphological differentiation was observed in the Ugandan crater lakes. Our data suggest that body shape changes have repeatedly evolved into a more limnetic-like form in several Ugandan crater lakes after independent waves of colonization from the same source population. The observed morphological changes in crater lake cichlids are likely to result from a common selective regime.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Lake Malawi cichlids represent one of a growing number of vertebrate models used to uncover the genetic and developmental basis of trait diversity. Rapid evolutionary radiation has resulted in species that share similar genomes but differ markedly in phenotypes including brains and behavior, nuptial coloration and the craniofacial skeleton. Research has begun to identify the genes, as well as the molecular and developmental pathways that underlie trait divergence. RESULTS:We assemble a compendium of gene expression for Lake Malawi cichlids, across pharyngula (the phylotypic stage) and larval stages of development, encompassing hundreds of gene transcripts. We chart patterns of expression in Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP), Fibroblast growth factor (FGF), Hedgehog (Hh), Notch and Wingless (Wnt) signaling pathways, as well as genes involved in neurogenesis, calcium and endocrine signaling, stem cell biology, and numerous homeobox (Hox) factors-in three planes using whole-mount in situ hybridization. Because of low sequence divergence across the Malawi cichlid assemblage, the probes we employ are broadly applicable in hundreds of species. We tabulate gene expression across general tissue domains, and highlight examples of unexpected expression patterns. CONCLUSIONS:On the heels of recently published genomes, this compendium of developmental gene expression in Lake Malawi cichlids provides a valuable resource for those interested in the relationship between evolution and development.
Project description:The adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes in East African Lake Malawi encompasses over 500 species that are believed to have evolved within the last 800,000 years from a common founder population. It has been proposed that hybridization between ancestral lineages can provide the genetic raw material to fuel such exceptionally high diversification rates, and evidence for this has recently been presented for the Lake Victoria region cichlid superflock. Here, we report that Lake Malawi cichlid genomes also show evidence of hybridization between two lineages that split 3-4 Ma, today represented by Lake Victoria cichlids and the riverine Astatotilapia sp. "ruaha blue." The two ancestries in Malawi cichlid genomes are present in large blocks of several kilobases, but there is little variation in this pattern between Malawi cichlid species, suggesting that the large-scale mosaic structure of the genomes was largely established prior to the radiation. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of polymorphic variants apparently derived from the hybridization are interspersed in the genomes. These loci show a striking excess of differentiation across ecological subgroups in the Lake Malawi cichlid assemblage, and parental alleles sort differentially into benthic and pelagic Malawi cichlid lineages, consistent with strong differential selection on these loci during species divergence. Furthermore, these loci are enriched for genes involved in immune response and vision, including opsin genes previously identified as important for speciation. Our results reinforce the role of ancestral hybridization in explosive diversification by demonstrating its significance in one of the largest recent vertebrate adaptive radiations.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The evolution of ecological divergence in closely related species is a key component of adaptive radiation. However, in most examples of adaptive radiation the mechanistic basis of ecological divergence remains unclear. A classic example is seen in the young benthic and limnetic stickleback species pairs of British Columbia. In each pair the benthic species feeds on littoral macroinvertebrates whereas the limnetic feeds on pelagic zooplankton. Previous studies indicate that in both short-term feeding trials and long-term enclosure studies, benthics and limnetics exhibit enhanced performance on their own resource but fare more poorly on the other species' resource. We examined the functional basis of ecological divergence in the stickleback species pair from Paxton Lake, BC, using biomechanical models of fish feeding applied to morphological traits. We examined the consequences of morphological differences using high speed video of feeding fish. RESULTS:Benthic stickleback possess morphological traits that predict high suction generation capacity, including greatly hypertrophied epaxial musculature. In contrast, limnetic stickleback possess traits thought to enhance capture of evasive planktonic prey, including greater jaw protrusion than benthics and greater displacement advantage in both the lower jaw-opening lever system and the opercular four-bar linkage. Kinematic data support the expectations from the morphological analysis that limnetic stickleback exhibit faster strikes and greater jaw protrusion than benthic fish, whereas benthics exert greater suction force on attached prey. CONCLUSIONS:We reveal a previously unknown suite of complex morphological traits that affect rapid ecological divergence in sympatric stickleback. These results indicate that postglacial divergence in stickleback involves many functional systems and shows the value of investigating the functional consequences of phenotypic divergence in adaptive radiation.
Project description:Understanding how speciation can occur without geographic isolation remains a central objective in evolutionary biology. Generally, some form of disruptive selection and assortative mating are necessary for sympatric speciation to occur. Disruptive selection can arise from intraspecific competition for resources. If this competition leads to the differential use of habitats and variation in relevant traits is genetically determined, then assortative mating can be an automatic consequence (i.e., habitat isolation). In this study, we caught Midas cichlid fish from the limnetic (middle of the lake) and benthic (shore) habitats of Crater Lake Asososca Managua to test whether some of the necessary conditions for sympatric speciation due to intraspecific competition and habitat isolation are given. Lake As. Managua is very small (<900 m in diameter), extremely young (maximally 1245 years of age), and completely isolated. It is inhabited by, probably, only a single endemic species of Midas cichlids, Amphilophus tolteca. We found that fish from the limnetic habitat were more elongated than fish collected from the benthic habitat, as would be predicted from ecomorphological considerations. Stable isotope analyses confirmed that the former also exhibit a more limnetic lifestyle than the latter. Furthermore, split-brood design experiments in the laboratory suggest that phenotypic plasticity is unlikely to explain much of the observed differences in body elongation that we observed in the field. Yet, neutral markers (microsatellites) did not reveal any genetic clustering in the population. Interestingly, demographic inferences based on RAD-seq data suggest that the apparent lack of genetic differentiation at neutral markers could simply be due to a lack of time, as intraspecific competition may only have begun a few hundred generations ago.
Project description:The cichlid fishes of Lake Malawi are famously diverse. However, phylogenetic and population genetic studies of their history have been difficult because of the great amount of genetic variation that is shared between species. We apply a recently developed method for fitting the "isolation with migration" divergence model to a data set of specially designed compound loci to develop portraits of cichlid species divergence. Outgroup sequences from a cichlid from Lake Tanganyika permit model parameter estimates in units of years and effective population sizes. Estimated speciation times range from 1,000 to 17,000 years for species in the genus Tropheops. These exceptionally recent dates suggest that Malawi cichlids as a group experience a very active and dynamic diversification process. Current effective population size estimates range form 2,000 to near 40,000, and to >120,000 for estimates of ancestral population sizes. It appears that very recent speciation and gene flow are among the reasons why it has been difficult to discern the phylogenetic history of Malawi cichlids.