Comparative analysis of morphological diversity: does disparity accumulate at the same rate in two lineages of centrarchid fishes?

Evolution. 2005 Aug;59(8):1783-94.


Evolutionary lineages differ with regard to the variety of forms they exhibit. We investigated whether comparisons of morphological diversity can be used to identify differences in ecological diversity in two sister clades of centrarchid fishes. Species in the Lepomis clade (sunfishes) feed on a wider range of prey items than species in the Micropterus clade (black basses). We quantified disparity in morphology of the feeding apparatus as within-clade variance on principal components and found that Lepomis exhibits 4.4 and 7.4 times more variance than Micropterus on the first two principal components. However, lineages are expected to diversify morphologically and ecologically given enough time, and this pattern could have arisen due to differences in the amount of time each clade has had to accumulate variance. Despite being sister groups, the age of the most recent common ancestor of Lepomis is approximately 14.6 million years ago and its lineages have a total length of 86.4 million years while the age of the most recent common ancestor of Micropterus is only about 8.4 million years ago, and it has a total branch length of 42.9 million years. We used the Brownian motion model of character evolution to test the hypothesis that time of independent evolution of each clade's lineages accounts for differences in morphological disparity and determined that the rates of evolution of the first two principal components are 4.4 and 7.7 times greater in Lepomis. Thus, time and phylogeny do not account for the differences in morphological disparity observed in Lepomis and Micropterus, and other diversity-promoting mechanisms should be investigated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological*
  • Animals
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Perciformes / anatomy & histology*
  • Perciformes / physiology
  • Phylogeny*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*
  • Species Specificity