Trophic ecology is thought to exert a profound influence on biodiversity, but the specifics of the process are rarely examined at large spatial and evolutionary scales. We investigate how trophic position and diet breadth influence functional trait evolution in one of the most species-rich and complex vertebrate assemblages, coral reef fishes, within a large-scale phylogenetic framework. We show that, in contrast with established theory, functional traits evolve fastest in trophic specialists with narrow diet breadths at both very low and high trophic positions. Top trophic level specialists exhibit the most functional diversity, while omnivorous taxa with intermediate trophic positions and wide diet breadth have the least functional diversity. Our results reveal the importance of trophic position in shaping evolutionary dynamics while simultaneously highlighting the incredible trophic and functional diversity present in coral reef fish assemblages.
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Data and scripts used in this study are stored in the Dryad Digital Repository (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7t3d30c), which is open access.
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We thank B. Matthews for comments on the manuscript. Research was supported by NSF DEB-1701913 to S.R.B. and B.C.O., NSF DEB-1556953 to P.C.W., and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee (S.R.B.).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Supplementary Methods, Results, Tables 5–20 and Figures 1–6
Time-calibrated phylogeny of 1,545 acanthomorph fish used to perform phylogenetic comparative analyses
Species standard, fork and total lengths; scale in pixels; photo author; photo source; calculated trophic level and trophic grouping. See Supplementary Information for citations of image sources in the source column
GenBank accessions for 15 genes used in phylogenetic reconstruction
Digitized landmark coordinates for 1,545 species of reef acanthomorphs
Number of species per trophic level by family for 92 families of reef acanthomorphs
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Borstein, S.R., Fordyce, J.A., O’Meara, B.C. et al. Reef fish functional traits evolve fastest at trophic extremes. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 191–199 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0725-x
Nature Communications (2020)
dietr: an R package for calculating fractional trophic levels from quantitative and qualitative diet data
Nature Ecology & Evolution (2019)