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Evolution. 2011 Jul;65(7):1912-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01275.x. Epub 2011 Mar 25.

The influence of an innovative locomotor strategy on the phenotypic diversification of triggerfish (family: Balistidae).

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Innovations in locomotor morphology have been invoked as important drivers of vertebrate diversification, although the influence of novel locomotion strategies on marine fish diversification remains largely unexplored. Using triggerfish as a case study, we determine whether the evolution of the distinctive synchronization of enlarged dorsal and anal fins that triggerfish use to swim may have catalyzed the ecological diversification of the group. By adopting a comparative phylogenetic approach to quantify median fin and body shape integration and to assess the tempo of functional and morphological evolution in locomotor traits, we find that: (1) functional and morphological components of the locomotive system exhibit a strong signal of correlated evolution; (2) triggerfish partitioned locomotor morphological and functional spaces early in their history; and (3) there is no strong evidence that a pulse of lineage diversification accompanied the major episode of phenotypic diversification. Together these findings suggest that the acquisition of a distinctive mode of locomotion drove an early radiation of shape and function in triggerfish, but not an early radiation of species.

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