Habitat transitions are key potential explanations for why some lineages have diversified and others have not—from Anolis lizards to Darwin's finches. The ecological ramifications of marine-to-freshwater transitions for fishes suggest evolutionary contingency: some lineages maintain their ancestral niches in novel habitats (niche conservatism), whereas others alter their ecological role. However, few studies have considered phenotypic, ecological, and lineage diversification concurrently to explore this issue. Here, we investigated the macroevolutionary history of the taxonomically and ecologically diverse Neotropical freshwater river rays (subfamily Potamotrygoninae), which invaded and diversified in the Amazon and other South American rivers during the late Oligocene to early Miocene. We generated a time-calibrated, multi-gene phylogeny for Potamotrygoninae and reconstructed evolutionary patterns of diet specialization. We measured functional morphological traits relevant for feeding and used comparative phylogenetic methods to examine how feeding morphology diversified over time. Potamotrygonine trophic and phenotypic diversity are evenly partitioned (non-overlapping) among internal clades for most of their history, until 20–16 mya, when more recent diversification suggests increasing overlap among phenotypes. Specialized piscivores (Heliotrygon and Paratrygon) evolved early in the history of freshwater stingrays, while later trophic specialization (molluscivory, insectivory, and crustacivory) evolved in the genus Potamotrygon. Potamotrygonins demonstrate ecological niche lability in diets and feeding apparatus; however, diversification has mostly been a gradual process through time. We suggest that competition is unlikely to have limited the potamotrygonine invasion and diversification in South America.
Original Publication Information
M A Kolmann, F P L Marques, J C Weaver, M N Dean, J P Fontenelle, N R Lovejoy, Ecological and Phenotypic Diversification after a Continental Invasion in Neotropical Freshwater Stingrays, Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 62, Issue 2, August 2022, Pages 424–440, https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icac019
Kolmann, Matthew; Marques, Fernando PL; Weaver, James C.; Dean, Mason N.; Fontenelle, Joao Pedro; and Lovejoy, Nathan R., "Ecological and Phenotypic Diversification after a Continental Invasion in Neotropical Freshwater Stingrays" (2022). Faculty Scholarship. 866.