Phylogenomic Study of Adaptive Radiation in Antarctic Fishes
Understanding how groups of organisms respond to climate change is fundamentally important to assessing the impacts of human activities as well as understanding how past climatic shifts have shaped biological diversity over deep stretches of time. The fishes occupying the near-shore marine habitats around Antarctica are dominated by one group of closely related species called notothenioids. It appears dramatic changes in Antarctic climate were important in the origin and evolutionary diversification of this economically important lineage of fishes. Deposits of fossil fishes in Antarctica that were formed when the continent was experiencing milder temperatures show that the area was home to a much more diverse array of fish lineages. Today the waters of the Southern Ocean are very cold, and often below freezing, but notothenioids fishes exhibit a number of adaptions to live in this harsh set of marine habitats, including the presence of anti-freeze proteins. This research project will collect DNA sequences from hundreds of genes to infer the genealogical relationships of nearly all 124 notothenioid species, and use mathematical techniques to estimate the ages of species and lineages. Knowledge on the timing of evolutionary divergence in notothenioids will allow investigators to assess if timing of previous major climatic shifts in Antarctica are correlated with key events in the formation of the modern Southern Ocean fish fauna. The project will also further the NSF goals of making scientific discoveries available to the general public and of training new generations of scientists. The project will support educational outreach activities to teenager groups and to the general public through a natural history museum exhibit and other public lectures. It will provide professional training opportunities for graduate students and a postdoctoral research scholar.
Adaptive radiation, where lineages experience high rates of evolutionary diversification coincident with ecological divergence, is mostly studied in island ecosystems. Notothenioids dominate the fish fauna of the Southern Ocean and exhibit antifreeze glycoproteins that allow occupation of the subzero waters. Notothenioids are noted as one of the only examples of adaptive radiation among marine fishes, but the evolutionary history of diversification and radiation into different ecological habitats is poorly understood. This research will generate a species phylogeny (evolutionary history) for nearly all of the 124 recognized notothenioid species to investigate the mechanisms of adaptive radiation in this lineage. The phylogeny is inferred from approximately 350 genes sampled using next generation DNA sequencing and related techniques. Morphometric data are taken for museum specimens to investigate the tempo of morphological diversification and to determine if there are correlations between rates of lineage diversification and the origin of morphological disparity. The patterns of lineage, morphological, and ecological diversification in the notothenioid radiation will be compared to the paleoclimatic record to determine if past instances of global climate change have shaped the evolutionary diversification of this lineage of polar-adapted fishes.
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