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Integrative Organismal Biology, 2021

DOI: 10.1093/iob/obab003



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Extreme Morphology, Functional Trade-Offs, and Evolutionary Dynamics in a Clade of Open-Ocean Fishes (Perciformes: Bramidae)

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Distributing this paper is prohibited by the publisher

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Abstract When novel or extreme morphologies arise, they are oft met with the burden of functional trade-offs in other aspects of anatomy, which may limit phenotypic diversification and make particular adaptive peaks inaccessible. Bramids (Perciformes: Bramidae) comprise a small family of 20 extant species of fishes, which are distributed throughout pelagic waters worldwide. Within the Bramidae, the fanfishes (Pteraclis and Pterycombus) differ morphologically from the generally stout, laterally compressed species that typify the family. Instead, Pteraclis and Pterycombus exhibit extreme anterior positioning of the dorsal fin onto the craniofacial skeleton. Consequently, they possess fin and skull anatomies that are radically different from other bramid species. Here, we investigate the anatomy, development, and evolution of the Bramidae to test the hypothesis that morphological innovations come at functional (proximate) and evolutionary (ultimate) costs. Addressing proximate effects, we find that the development of an exaggerated dorsal fin is associated with neurocrania modified to accommodate an anterior expansion of the dorsal fin. This occurs via reduced development of the supraoccipital crest (SOC), providing a broad surface area on the skull for insertion of the dorsal fin musculature. While these anatomical shifts are presumably associated with enhanced maneuverability in fanfishes, they are also predicted to result in compromised suction feeding, possibly limiting the mechanisms of feeding in this group. Phylogenetic analyses suggest craniofacial and fin morphologies of fanfishes evolved rapidly and are evolutionarily correlated across bramids. Furthermore, fanfishes exhibit a similar rate of lineage diversification as the rest of the Bramidae, lending little support for the prediction that exaggerated medial fins are associated with phylogenetic constraint. Our phylogeny places fanfishes at the base of the Bramidae and suggests that non-fanfish bramids have reduced medial fins and re-evolved SOCs. These observations suggest that the evolution of novel fin morphologies in basal species has led to the phylogenetic coupling of head and fin shape, possibly predisposing the entire family to a limited range of feeding. Thus, the evolution of extreme morphologies may have carry-over effects, even after the morphology is lost, limiting ecological diversification of lineages.