The physiology of rapid ecological specialization: A look at the Midas cichlids.

08:00 EDT 10th March 2020 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "The physiology of rapid ecological specialization: A look at the Midas cichlids."

Understanding the process of speciation is a primary goal of evolutionary biology, yet the question of whether speciation can reach completion in the presence of gene flow is still controversial. For more than 50 years, the cichlids of Africa, and more recently those in South and Central America, have served as model systems for the study of speciation in nature. Cichlids are distinguished by their enormous species richness, diversity of behavioral and trophic adaptations, and their rapid rate of divergence. In both Africa and South and Central America, the repeated interaction of geology, new founder events, and adaptive evolution has created a series of natural experiments with speciation occurring both within and between waterbodies of differing ages. In the "From the Cover" manuscript, Raffini, Schneider, Franchini, Kautt, & Meyer (2020) move beyond the question of which mechanisms drive speciation, and instead show that divergent morphologies and physiologies translate into adaptive traits. They investigate differences in physiology and gene expression profiles in a benthic/limnetic species pair of Midas cichlid fish in a 24k year old Nicaraguan crater lake. While recently diverged, these two species demonstrate significant ecological but limited genetic differentiation. The authors find that the distinct morphotypes translate into relevant differences in swimming performance and metabolic rates that correspond with differential gene expression profiles. Hence, the authors take an integrative approach examining the impacts of morphological differences on performance and niche partitioning: an approach that can advance our understanding of the drivers of morphological and physiological divergence during speciation.


Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Molecular ecology
ISSN: 1365-294X


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