Macroevolutionary analyses indicate that repeated adaptive shifts towards predatory diets affect functional diversity in Neotropical cichlids

Jessica H. Arbour, Carmen G. Montanã, Kirk O. Winemiller, Allison A. Pease, Miriam Soria-Barreto, Jennifer L. Cochran-Biederman, Hernán López-Fernández

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study explores the link between feeding ecology and functional diversification among Neotropical cichlids, a diverse clade of freshwater fishes, during adaptive radiation. It notes that adaptation to varying ecological niches can affect morphological evolution differently. By analyzing stomach content data, species dietary niches were categorized. Significant findings include a division in dietary niche space between predators feeding on fish and macroinvertebrates, and others whose diets mainly consist of smaller invertebrates, detritus or vegetation. This dietary differentiation aligned well with functional morphological groupings. The predator group showed rare transitions to other dietary niches, indicating a strong association between dietary specialization and functional diversification, with the latter driving evolution towards more extreme morphologies. The study suggests that the diverging patterns of trophic diversification among Neotropical cichlids are influenced by different regional environmental demands tied to their biogeographical history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-861
Number of pages18
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 28 2020

ASJC Scopus Subject Areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Adaptation
  • Cichlinae
  • Comparative Phylogenetics
  • Feeding Ecology
  • Functional Morphology
  • Ornstein-Uhlenbeck
  • Specialization

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