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1.  Sympatric ecological divergence associated with a color polymorphism 
BMC Biology  2015;13:82.
Color polymorphisms are a conspicuous feature of many species and a way to address broad ecological and evolutionary questions. Three potential major evolutionary fates of color polymorphisms are conceivable over time: maintenance, loss, or speciation. However, the understanding of color polymorphisms and their evolutionary implications is frequently impaired by sex-linkage of coloration, unknown inheritance patterns, difficulties in phenotypic characterization, and a lack of evolutionary replicates. Hence, the role of color polymorphisms in promoting ecological and evolutionary diversification remains poorly understood. In this context, we assessed the ecological and evolutionary consequences of a color polymorphic study system that is not hampered by these restrictions: the repeated adaptive radiations of the gold/dark Midas cichlid fishes (the Amphilophus citrinellus species complex) from the great lakes and crater lakes of Nicaragua, Central America.
We conducted multi-trait morphological and ecological analyses from ten populations of this young adaptive radiation (<6,000 years old), which revealed sympatric ecological differentiation associated with the conspicuous binary (gold/dark) color polymorphism. Varying degrees of intraspecific ecological divergence were observed across the ten color morph pairs, but most pairs exhibited a consistently parallel ecological and evolutionary trajectory across populations. Specifically, gold Midas cichlids are frequently deeper-bodied, have more robust pharyngeal jaws, and feed at a lower trophic level compared to conspecific, sympatric dark individuals. A common garden experiment suggests there is a genetic correlation of color and eco-morphological traits.
We demonstrate unprecedented ecological and evolutionary consequences of color polymorphism in this adaptive radiation. Across the species complex, sympatric conspecific individuals differed in eco-morphology depending on color morph (gold/dark) and the axis of differentiation tended to be consistent across replicates. The consistent divergence across wild populations and the common garden experiment suggests that color is genetically correlated to ecology. Because Midas cichlids are known to mate color assortatively, the putative genetic correlation of this color polymorphism with an eco-morphological divergence suggests an innate potential to promote ecological and evolutionary divergence across this species complex. However, there are to date no examples of speciation based on color in this radiation, suggesting long-term maintenance of this color polymorphism.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12915-015-0192-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4594650  PMID: 26437665
Adaptive radiation; Ecological diversification; Evolutionary ecology; Parallel evolution; Color polymorphism; Stable isotope analysis; Crater lake; Cichlids; Genetic correlation; Pleiotropy; Genetic linkage
2.  Early Miocene origin and cryptic diversification of South American salamanders 
The currently recognized species richness of South American salamanders is surprisingly low compared to North and Central America. In part, this low richness may be due to the salamanders being a recent arrival to South America. Additionally, the number of South American salamander species may be underestimated because of cryptic diversity. The aims of our present study were to infer evolutionary relationships, lineage diversity, and timing of divergence of the South American Bolitoglossa using mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data from specimens primarily from localities in the Andes and upper Amazon Basin. We also estimated time of colonization of South America to test whether it is consistent with arrival via the Panamanian Isthmus, or land bridge connection, at its traditionally assumed age of 3 million years.
Divergence time estimates suggest that Bolitoglossa arrived in South America from Central America by at least the Early Miocene, ca. 23.6 MYA (95% HPD 15.9-30.3 MYA), and subsequently diversified. South American salamanders of the genus Bolitoglossa show strong phylogeographic structure at fine geographic scales and deep divergences at the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b (Cytb) and high diversity at the nuclear recombination activating gene-1 (Rag1). Species often contain multiple genetically divergent lineages that are occasionally geographically overlapping. Single specimens from two southeastern localities in Ecuador are sister to the equatoriana-peruviana clade and genetically distinct from all other species investigated to date. Another single exemplar from the Andes of northwestern Ecuador is highly divergent from all other specimens and is sister to all newly studied samples. Nevertheless, all sampled species of South American Bolitoglossa are members of a single clade that is one of several constituting the subgenus Eladinea, one of seven subgenera in this large genus.
The ancestors of South American salamanders likely arrived at least by the Early Miocene, well before the completion of the Late Pliocene Panamanian land bridge (widely accepted as ca. 3 MYA). This date is in agreement with recent, controversial, arguments that an older, perhaps short-lived, land connection may have existed between South America and present-day Panama 23–25 MYA. Since its arrival in South America, Bolitoglossa has diversified more extensively than previously presumed and currently includes several cryptic species within a relatively small geographic area. Rather than two upper Amazonian species currently recorded for this region, we propose that at least eight should be recognized, although these additional lineages remain to be formally described.
PMCID: PMC3602097  PMID: 23497060
3.  Genomics of adaptation and speciation in cichlid fishes: recent advances and analyses in African and Neotropical lineages 
Cichlid fishes are remarkably phenotypically diverse and species-rich. Therefore, they provide an exciting opportunity for the study of the genetics of adaptation and speciation by natural and sexual selection. Here, we review advances in the genomics and transcriptomics of cichlids, particularly regarding ecologically relevant differences in body shape, trophic apparatus, coloration and patterning, and sex determination. Research conducted so far has focused almost exclusively on African cichlids. To analyse genomic diversity and selection in a Neotropical radiation, we conducted a comparative transcriptomic analysis between sympatric, ecologically divergent crater-lake Midas cichlids (Lake Xiloá Amphilophus amarillo and Amphilophus sagittae). We pyrosequenced (Roche 454) expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries and generated more than 178 000 000 ESTs and identified nine ESTs under positive selection between these sister species (Ka/Ks > 1). None of these ESTs were found to be under selection in African cichlids. Of 11 candidate genes for ecomorphological differentiation in African cichlids, none showed signs of selection between A. amarillo and A. sagittae. Although more population-level studies are now needed to thoroughly document patterns of divergence during speciation of cichlids, available information so far suggests that adaptive phenotypic diversification in Neotropical and African cichlids may be evolving through non-parallel genetic bases.
PMCID: PMC3233715  PMID: 22201168
next-generation sequencing; cichlid fish; ecological speciation; coloration; body shape; expressed sequence tags
4.  A Hybrid Genetic Linkage Map of Two Ecologically and Morphologically Divergent Midas Cichlid Fishes (Amphilophus spp.) Obtained by Massively Parallel DNA Sequencing (ddRADSeq) 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2013;3(1):65-74.
Cichlid fishes are an excellent model system for studying speciation and the formation of adaptive radiations because of their tremendous species richness and astonishing phenotypic diversity. Most research has focused on African rift lake fishes, although Neotropical cichlid species display much variability as well. Almost one dozen species of the Midas cichlid species complex (Amphilophus spp.) have been described so far and have formed repeated adaptive radiations in several Nicaraguan crater lakes. Here we apply double-digest restriction-site associated DNA sequencing to obtain a high-density linkage map of an interspecific cross between the benthic Amphilophus astorquii and the limnetic Amphilophus zaliosus, which are sympatric species endemic to Crater Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. A total of 755 RAD markers were genotyped in 343 F2 hybrids. The map resolved 25 linkage groups and spans a total distance of 1427 cM with an average marker spacing distance of 1.95 cM, almost matching the total number of chromosomes (n = 24) in these species. Regions of segregation distortion were identified in five linkage groups. Based on the pedigree of parents to F2 offspring, we calculated a genome-wide mutation rate of 6.6 × 10−8 mutations per nucleotide per generation. This genetic map will facilitate the mapping of ecomorphologically relevant adaptive traits in the repeated phenotypes that evolved within the Midas cichlid lineage and, as the first linkage map of a Neotropical cichlid, facilitate comparative genomic analyses between African cichlids, Neotropical cichlids and other teleost fishes.
PMCID: PMC3538344  PMID: 23316439
Midas cichlid; double-digest RADSeq; synteny; segregation distortion; RAD markers; mutation rate
6.  Local variation and parallel evolution: morphological and genetic diversity across a species complex of neotropical crater lake cichlid fishes 
The polychromatic and trophically polymorphic Midas cichlid fish species complex (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) is an excellent model system for studying the mechanisms of speciation and patterns of phenotypic diversification in allopatry and in sympatry. Here, we first review research to date on the species complex and the geological history of its habitat. We analyse body shape variation from all currently described species in the complex, sampled from six crater lakes (maximally 1.2–23.9 kyr old) and both great lakes in Nicaragua. We find that Midas cichlid populations in each lake have their own characteristic body shape. In lakes with multiple sympatric species of Midas cichlid, each species has a distinct body shape. Across the species complex, most body shape change relates to body depth, head, snout and mouth shape and caudal peduncle length. There is independent parallel evolution of an elongate limnetic species in at least two crater lakes. Mitochondrial genetic diversity is higher in crater lakes with multiple species. Midas cichlid species richness increases with the size and age of the crater lakes, though no such relationship exists for the other syntopic fishes. We suggest that crater lake Midas cichlids follow the predicted pattern of an adaptive radiation, with early divergence of each crater lake colonization, followed by intralacustrine diversification and speciation by ecological adaptation and sexual selection.
PMCID: PMC2871887  PMID: 20439280
geometric morphometrics; mitochondrial DNA genetic diversity; ecomorphology; limnology; Mesoamerica; adaptive radiation
7.  Rapid sympatric ecological differentiation of crater lake cichlid fishes within historic times 
BMC Biology  2010;8:60.
After a volcano erupts, a lake may form in the cooled crater and become an isolated aquatic ecosystem. This makes fishes in crater lakes informative for understanding sympatric evolution and ecological diversification in barren environments. From a geological and limnological perspective, such research offers insight about the process of crater lake ecosystem establishment and speciation. In the present study we use genetic and coalescence approaches to infer the colonization history of Midas cichlid fishes (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) that inhabit a very young crater lake in Nicaragua-the ca. 1800 year-old Lake Apoyeque. This lake holds two sympatric, endemic morphs of Midas cichlid: one with large, hypertrophied lips (~20% of the total population) and another with thin lips. Here we test the associated ecological, morphological and genetic diversification of these two morphs and their potential to represent incipient speciation.
Gene coalescence analyses [11 microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences] suggest that crater lake Apoyeque was colonized in a single event from the large neighbouring great lake Managua only about 100 years ago. This founding in historic times is also reflected in the extremely low nuclear and mitochondrial genetic diversity in Apoyeque. We found that sympatric adult thin- and thick-lipped fishes occupy distinct ecological trophic niches. Diet, body shape, head width, pharyngeal jaw size and shape and stable isotope values all differ significantly between the two lip-morphs. The eco-morphological features pharyngeal jaw shape, body shape, stomach contents and stable isotopes (δ15N) all show a bimodal distribution of traits, which is compatible with the expectations of an initial stage of ecological speciation under disruptive selection. Genetic differentiation between the thin- and thick-lipped population is weak at mtDNA sequence (FST = 0.018) and absent at nuclear microsatellite loci (FST < 0.001).
This study provides empirical evidence of eco-morphological differentiation occurring very quickly after the colonization of a new and vacant habitat. Exceptionally low levels of neutral genetic diversity and inference from coalescence indicates that the Midas cichlid population in Apoyeque is much younger (ca. 100 years or generations old) than the crater itself (ca. 1 800 years old). This suggests either that the crater remained empty for many hundreds of years after its formation or that remnant volcanic activity prevented the establishment of a stable fish population during the early life of the crater lake. Based on our findings of eco-morphological variation in the Apoyeque Midas cichlids, and known patterns of adaptation in Midas cichlids in general, we suggest that this population may be in a very early stage of speciation (incipient species), promoted by disruptive selection and ecological diversification.
PMCID: PMC2880021  PMID: 20459869
8.  Cryptic diversity and deep divergence in an upper Amazonian leaflitter frog, Eleutherodactylus ockendeni 
The forests of the upper Amazon basin harbour some of the world's highest anuran species richness, but to date we have only the sparsest understanding of the distribution of genetic diversity within and among species in this region. To quantify region-wide genealogical patterns and to test for the presence of deep intraspecific divergences that have been documented in some other neotropical anurans, we developed a molecular phylogeny of the wide-spread terrestrial leaflitter frog Eleutherodactylus ockendeni (Leptodactylidae) from 13 localities throughout its range in Ecuador using data from two mitochondrial genes (16S and cyt b; 1246 base pairs). We examined the relation between divergence of mtDNA and the nuclear genome, as sampled by five species-specific microsatellite loci, to evaluate indirectly whether lineages are reproductively isolated where they co-occur. Our extensive phylogeographic survey thus assesses the spatial distribution of E. ockendeni genetic diversity across eastern Ecuador.
We identified three distinct and well-supported clades within the Ecuadorean range of E. ockendeni: an uplands clade spanning north to south, a northeastern and central lowlands clade, and a central and southeastern clade, which is basal. Clades are separated by 12% to 15% net corrected p-distance for cytochrome b, with comparatively low sequence divergence within clades. Clades marginally overlap in some geographic areas (e.g., Napo River basin) but are reproductively isolated, evidenced by diagnostic differences in microsatellite PCR amplification profiles or DNA repeat number and coalescent analyses (in MDIV) best modelled without migration. Using Bayesian (BEAST) and net phylogenetic estimates, the Southeastern Clade diverged from the Upland/Lowland clades in the mid-Miocene or late Oligocene. Lowland and Upland clades speciated more recently, in the early or late Miocene.
Our findings uncover previously unsuspected cryptic species diversity within the common leaflitter frog E. ockendeni, with at least three different species in Ecuador. While these clades are clearly geographically circumscribed, they do not coincide with any existing landscape barriers. Divergences are ancient, from the Miocene, before the most dramatic mountain building in the Ecuadorean Andes. Therefore, this diversity is not a product of Pleistocene refuges. Our research coupled with other studies suggests that species richness in the upper Amazon is drastically underestimated by current inventories based on morphospecies.
PMCID: PMC2254618  PMID: 18154647

Results 1-8 (8)