Iterative ecological radiation and convergence during the evolutionary history of damselfishes (Pomacentridae)

Am Nat. 2013 Jan;181(1):94-113. doi: 10.1086/668599. Epub 2012 Dec 3.


Coral reef fishes represent one of the most spectacularly diverse assemblages of vertebrates on the planet, but our understanding of their mode of diversification remains limited. Here we test whether the diversity of the damselfishes (Pomacentridae), one of the most species-rich families of reef-associated fishes, was produced by a single or multiple adaptive radiation(s) during their evolutionary history. Tests of the tempo of lineage diversification using a time-calibrated phylogeny including 208 species revealed that crown pomacentrid diversification has not slowed through time as expected under a scenario of a single adaptive radiation resulting from an early burst of diversification. Evolutionary modeling of trophic traits similarly rejected the hypothesis of early among-lineage partitioning of ecologically important phenotypic diversity. Instead, damselfishes are shown to have experienced iterative convergent radiations wherein subclades radiate across similar trophic strategies (i.e., pelagic feeders, benthic feeders, intermediate) and morphologies. Regionalization of coral reefs, competition, and functional constraints may have fueled iterative ecological radiation and convergent evolution of damselfishes. Through the Pomacentridae, we illustrate that radiations may be strongly structured by the nature of the constraints on diversification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Coral Reefs*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fish Proteins / genetics
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Perciformes / anatomy & histology*
  • Perciformes / classification
  • Perciformes / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Fish Proteins