Background: Interspecific divergence along a benthic to pelagic habitat axis is ubiquitous in freshwater fishes inhabiting lentic environments. In this study, we examined the influence of this habitat axis on the macroevolution of a diverse, lotic radiation using mtDNA and nDNA phylogenies for eastern North America's most species-rich freshwater fish clade, the open posterior myodome (OPM) cyprinids. We used ancestral state reconstruction to identify the earliest benthic to pelagic transition in this group and generated fossil-calibrated estimates of when this shift occurred. This transition could have represented evolution into a novel adaptive zone, and therefore, we tested for a period of accelerated lineage accumulation after this historical habitat shift. Results: Ancestral state reconstructions inferred a similar and concordant region of our mtDNA and nDNA based gene trees as representing the shift from benthic to pelagic habitats in the OPM clade. Two independent tests conducted on each gene tree suggested an increased diversification rate after this inferred habitat transition. Furthermore, lineage through time analyses indicated rapid early cladogenesis in the clade arising after the benthic to pelagic shift. Conclusions: A burst of diversification followed the earliest benthic to pelagic transition during the radiation of OPM cyprinids in eastern North America. As such, the benthic/pelagic habitat axis has likely influenced the generation of biodiversity across disparate freshwater ecosystems.
- Divergence times
- Open adaptive zone