Evolutionary divergence in life history traits among populations of the Lake Malawi cichlid fish Astatotilapia calliptera.
ABSTRACT: During the early stages of adaptive radiation, populations diverge in life history traits such as egg size and growth rates, in addition to eco-morphological and behavioral characteristics. However, there are few studies of life history divergence within ongoing adaptive radiations. Here, we studied Astatotilapia calliptera, a maternal mouthbrooding cichlid fish within the Lake Malawi haplochromine radiation. This species occupies a rich diversity of habitats, including the main body of Lake Malawi, as well as peripheral rivers and shallow lakes. We used common garden experiments to test for life history divergence among populations, focussing on clutch size, duration of incubation, egg mass, offspring size, and growth rates. In a first experiment, we found significant differences among populations in average clutch size and egg mass, and larger clutches were associated with smaller eggs. In a second experiment, we found significant differences among populations in brood size, duration of incubation, juvenile length when released, and growth rates. Larger broods were associated with smaller juveniles when released and shorter incubation times. Although juvenile growth rates differed between populations, these were not strongly related to initial size on release. Overall, differences in life history characters among populations were not predicted by major habitat classifications (Lake Malawi or peripheral habitats) or population genetic divergence (microsatellite-based FST). We suggest that the observed patterns are consistent with local selective forces driving the observed patterns of trait divergence. The results provide strong evidence of evolutionary divergence and covariance of life history traits among populations within a radiating cichlid species, highlighting opportunities for further work to identify the processes driving the observed divergence.
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.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Cichlids are a prime model system in evolutionary research and several of the most prominent examples of adaptive radiations are found in the East African Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria, all part of the East African cichlid radiation (EAR). In the past, great effort has been invested in reconstructing the evolutionary and biogeographic history of cichlids (Teleostei: Cichlidae). In this study, we present new divergence age estimates for the major cichlid lineages with the main focus on the EAR based on a dataset encompassing representative taxa of almost all recognized cichlid tribes and ten mitochondrial protein genes. We have thoroughly re-evaluated both fossil and geological calibration points, and we included the recently described fossil †Tugenchromis pickfordi in the cichlid divergence age estimates. RESULTS:Our results estimate the origin of the EAR to Late Eocene/Early Oligocene (28.71?Ma; 95% HPD: 24.43-33.15?Ma). More importantly divergence ages of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of several Tanganyika cichlid tribes were estimated to be substantially older than the oldest estimated maximum age of the Lake Tanganyika: Trematocarini (16.13?Ma, 95% HPD: 11.89-20.46?Ma), Bathybatini (20.62?Ma, 95% HPD: 16.88-25.34?Ma), Lamprologini (15.27?Ma; 95% HPD: 12.23-18.49?Ma). The divergence age of the crown haplochromine H-lineage is estimated to 22.8?Ma (95% HPD: 14.40-26.32?Ma) and of the Lake Malawi radiation to 4.07?Ma (95% HDP: 2.93-5.26?Ma). In addition, we recovered a novel lineage within the Lamprologini tribe encompassing only Lamprologus of the lower and central Congo drainage with its divergence estimated to the Late Miocene or early Pliocene. Furthermore we recovered two novel mitochondrial haplotype lineages within the Haplochromini tribe: 'Orthochromis' indermauri and 'Haplochormis' vanheusdeni. CONCLUSIONS:Divergence time estimates of the MRCA of several Tanganyika cichlid tribes predate the age of the extant Lake Tanganyika basin, and hence are in line with the recently formulated "Melting-Pot Tanganyika" hypothesis. The radiation of the 'Lower Congo Lamprologus clade' might be linked with the Pliocene origin of the modern lower Congo rapids as has been shown for other Lower Congo cichlid assemblages. Finally, the age of origin of the Lake Malawi cichlid flock agrees well with the oldest age estimate for lacustrine conditions in Lake Malawi.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Egg size represents an important form of maternal effect determined by a complex interplay of long-term adaptation and short-term plasticity balancing egg size with brood size. Haplochromine cichlids are maternal mouthbrooders showing differential parental investment in different species, manifested in great variation in egg size, brood size and duration of maternal care. Little is known about maternally determined molecular characters of eggs in fishes and their relation to egg size and trophic specialization. Here we investigate maternal mRNA inputs of selected growth- and stress-related genes in eggs of mouthbrooding cichlid fishes adapted to different trophic niches from Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria and compare them to their riverine allies.<h4>Results</h4>We first identified two reference genes, <i>atf7ip</i> and <i>mid1ip1</i>, to be suitable for cross-species quantification of mRNA abundance via qRT-PCR in the cichlid eggs. Using these reference genes, we found substantial variation in maternal mRNA input for a set of candidate genes related to growth and stress response across species and lakes. We observed negative correlation of mRNA abundance between two of growth hormone receptor paralogs (<i>ghr1</i> and <i>ghr2</i>) across all haplochromine cichlid species which also differentiate the species in the two younger lakes, Malawi and Lake Victoria, from those in Lake Tanganyika and ancestral riverine species. Furthermore, we found correlations between egg size and maternal mRNA abundance of two growth-related genes <i>igf2</i> and <i>ghr2</i> across the haplochromine cichlids as well as distinct clustering of the species based on their trophic specialization using maternal mRNA abundance of five genes (<i>ghr1</i>, <i>ghr2</i>, <i>igf2</i>, <i>gr</i> and <i>sgk1</i>).<h4>Conclusions</h4>These findings indicate that variations in egg size in closely related cichlid species can be linked to differences in maternal RNA deposition of key growth-related genes. In addition, the cichlid species with contrasting trophic specialization deposit different levels of maternal mRNAs in their eggs for particular growth-related genes; however, it is unclear whether such differences contribute to differential morphogenesis at later stages of development. Our results provide first insights into this aspect of gene activation, as a basis for future studies targeting their role during ecomorphological specialization and adaptive radiation.
Project description:The existence of ancient deep-water lakes provides an opportunity to study the independent adaptation of aquatic organisms to pelagic, benthic, and rocky shore habitats. With improving resolution of their phylogenetic relationships, the many cichlid fish species endemic to the African Great Lakes Malawi, Tanganyika, and Victoria provide a significant resource for the comparative study of such evolutionary processes. Here, we show that cichlid lineages colonizing rocky shores and pelagic habitats in the different lakes have independently evolved larger eggs and lower fecundities than benthic lineages, suggesting parallel adaptive life-history evolution. By contrast, other pelagic teleost fishes in both marine and freshwater habitats, including African lakes, typically produce large numbers of very small eggs. Our results also suggest that decreased fecundity and increased egg size not only occurred independently in each lake but occurred independently in the colonization of rocky and pelagic habitats.
Project description:Allopatric divergence in peripheral habitats may lead to rapid evolution of populations with novel phenotypes. In this study we provide the first evidence that isolation in peripheral habitats may have played a critical role in generation of Lake Malawi's cichlid fish diversity. We show that Lake Chilingali, a satellite lake 11.5 km from the shore of Lake Malawi, contains a breeding population of Rhamphochromis, a predatory genus previously thought to be restricted to Lake Malawi and permanently connected water bodies. The Lake Chilingali population is the smallest known Rhamphochromis, has a unique male nuptial colour pattern and has significant differentiation in mitochondrial DNA from Lake Malawi species. In laboratory mate choice trials with a candidate sister population from Lake Malawi, females showed a strong tendency to mate assortatively indicating that they are incipient biological species. These data support the hypothesis that isolation and reconnection of peripheral habitats due to lake level changes have contributed to the generation of cichlid diversity within African lakes. Such cycles of habitat isolation and reconnection may also have been important in evolutionary diversification of numerous other abundant and wide-ranging aquatic organisms, such as marine fishes and invertebrates.
Project description:Whole-genome methylomes and total transcriptomes for muscle and liver tissues of Lake Malawi cichlid species characterised in the context of phenotypic diversification. Overall design: Biological replicates (≥2) for all RNAseq and WGBS samples. Male, wild-caught samples for all Lake Malawi cichlid species analysed in this study.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Egg size and clutch size are key life history traits. During the breeding period, it is possible for females to increase their reproductive output either by increasing the number of eggs if the optimal egg size (OES) is maintained, or by increasing the allocation of energy to each egg. However, the strategies adopted are often influenced by animals' morphology and environment.<h4>Methods</h4>Here, we examined variation in female morphological and reproductive traits, tested for trade-offs between egg size and clutch size, and evaluated the relationship between egg size and female morphology in three populations of <i>Phrynocephalus helioscopus</i>.<h4>Results</h4>Female body size, egg size, and clutch size were larger in the Yi Ning (YN) and Fu Yun (FY) populations than in the Bei Tun (BT) population (the FY and YN populations laid more, and rounder eggs). Egg size was independent of female body size in two populations (BT and FY), even though both populations had an egg-size/clutch size trade-off. In the YN population, egg size and clutch size were independent, but egg size was correlated with female body size, consistent with the hypothesis of morphological constraint.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our study found geographical variation in body size and reproductive strategies of <i>P. helioscopus</i>. Egg size was correlated with morphology in the larger-bodied females of the YN population, but not in the smaller-bodied females of the BT population, illustrating that constraints on female body size and egg size are not consistent between populations.
Project description: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 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:One of the most compelling features of the cichlid fishes of the African Great Lakes is the seemingly endless diversity of male coloration. Colour diversification has been implicated as an important factor driving cichlid speciation. Colour has also been central to cichlid taxonomy and, thus, to our concept of species diversity. We undertook a phylogeographical examination of several allopatric populations of the Lake Malawi cichlid Pseudotropheus zebra in order to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the populations, which exhibit one of two dorsal fin colours. We present evidence that populations with red dorsal fins (RT) are not monophyletic. The RT population defining the northern limit of the distribution has evidently originated independently of the southern RT populations, which share a common ancestry. This evidence of species-level colour convergence is an important discovery in our understanding of cichlid evolution. It implies that divergence in coloration may accompany speciation, and that allopatric populations with similar coloration cannot be assumed to be conspecific. In addition to this finding, we have observed evidence for introgression, contributing to current evidence that this phenomenon may be extremely widespread. Thus, in species-level phylogenetic reconstructions, including our own, consideration must be given to the potential effects of introgression.