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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2009 Sep;52(3):621-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.05.015. Epub 2009 May 21.

Dating the evolutionary origins of wrasse lineages (Labridae) and the rise of trophic novelty on coral reefs.

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  • 1School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld. 4811, Australia.


We estimated ages of divergence between major labrid tribes and the timing of the evolution of trophic novelty. Sequence data for 101 labrid taxa and 14 outgroups consisting of two mitochondrial gene regions (12s, 16s), and two nuclear protein-coding genes (RAG2, TMO4c4), a combined 2567 bp of sequence, were examined using novel maximum likelihood, maximum parsimony and mixed model Bayesian inference methods. These analyses yielded well supported trees consistent with published phylogenies. Bayesian inference using five fossil calibration points estimated the minimum ages of lineages. With origins in the late Cretaceous to early tertiary, the family diversified quickly with both major lineages (hypsigenyine and julidine) present at approximately 62.7 Ma, shortly after the K/T boundary. All lineages leading to major tribes were in place by the beginning of the Miocene (23 Ma) with most diversification in extant lineages occurring within the Miocene. Optimisation of trophic information onto the chronogram revealed multiple origins of novel feeding modes with two distinct periods of innovation. The Palaeocene/Eocene saw the origins of feeding modes that are well represented in other families: gastropod feeders, piscivores and browsing herbivores. A wave of innovation in the Oligocene/Miocene resulted in specialized feeding modes, rarely seen in other groups: coral feeding, foraminifera feeding and fish cleaning. There is little evidence of a general relationship between trophic specialization and species diversity. The current trophic diversity of the Labridae is a result of the accumulation of feeding modes dating back to the K/T boundary at 65 Ma, with all major feeding modes on present day reefs already in place 7.5 million years ago.

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