Pleiotropic jaw morphology links the evolution of mechanical modularity and functional feeding convergence in Lake Malawi cichlids

Proceedings. Biological Sciences
Christopher D HulseyRoi Holzman


Complexity in how mechanistic variation translates into ecological novelty could be critical to organismal diversification. For instance, when multiple distinct morphologies can generate the same mechanical or functional phenotype, this could mitigate trade-offs and/or provide alternative ways to meet the same ecological challenge. To investigate how this type of complexity shapes diversity in a classic adaptive radiation, we tested several evolutionary consequences of the anterior jaw four-bar linkage for Lake Malawi cichlid trophic diversification. Using a novel phylogenetic framework, we demonstrated that different mechanical outputs of the same four jaw elements are evolutionarily associated with both jaw protrusion distance and jaw protrusion angle. However, these two functional aspects of jaw protrusion have evolved independently. Additionally, although four-bar morphology showed little evidence for attraction to optima, there was substantial evidence of adaptive peaks for emergent four-bar linkage mechanics and jaw protrusion abilities among Malawi feeding guilds. Finally, we highlighted a clear case of two cichlid species that have -independently evolved to graze algae in less than 2 Myr and have converged on similar ja...Continue Reading


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