Integration drives rapid phenotypic evolution in flatfishes
Evolutionary innovations are scattered throughout the tree of life, and have allowed the organisms that possess them to occupy novel adaptive zones. While the impacts of these innovations are well documented, much less is known about how these innovations arise in the first place. Patterns of covariation among traits across macroevolutionary time can offer insights into the generation of innovation. However, to date, there is no consensus on the role that trait covariation plays in this process. The evolution of cranial asymmetry in flatfishes (Pleuronectiformes) from within Carangaria was a rapid evolutionary innovation that preceded the colonization of benthic aquatic habitats by this clade, and resulted in one of the most bizarre body plans observed among extant vertebrates. Here, we use three-dimensional geometric morphometrics and a phylogenetic comparative toolkit to reconstruct the evolution of skull shape in carangarians, and quantify patterns of integration and modularity across the skull. We find that the evolution of asymmetry in flatfishes was a rapid process, resulting in the colonization of novel trait space, that was aided by strong integration that coordinated shape changes across the skull. Our findings suggest that integration plays a major role in the evolution of innovation by synchronizing responses to selective pressures across the organism.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Evans, K. M., Larouche, O., Watson, S. J., Farina, S., Habegger, M. L., & Friedman, M. (2021). Integration drives rapid phenotypic evolution in flatfishes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(18), e2101330118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2101330118