Extreme dentition does not prevent diet and tooth diversification within combtooth blennies (Ovalentaria: Blenniidae): EVOLUTION OF DENTITION IN BLENNIES: Blenniidae)

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12 Scopus citations


The dentition of fishes can be quite striking and is often correlated with a specific diet. Combtooth blennies have long incisiform oral teeth, unlike most actinopterygians. It has been suggested that the long tooth morphology is an adaptation for detritivory, but given the diversity of diets (detritus, coral polyps, polychaetes, and pieces of other fishes), are blenny teeth indeed monomorphic? Or does tooth variation associated with diet still exist at this extreme? To explore tooth and diet diversification, we used a new phylogenetic hypothesis of Blenniidae, measured tooth shape, number, and mode of attachment, and quantified blenniid diet. The ancestral diet of blennies contained detritus and diversified into many different diets, including almost exclusively detritivory. Our results reveal a dental cline that may be constrained by tooth shape, but has not prevented diet diversification. Ancestral state reconstruction of tooth morphologies suggests that the ancestor of blennies had many unattached teeth and featured transitions to fewer attached teeth, with several transitions back to attached or unattached teeth. The dentition of blenniids is not monotypic; rather it is diverse and small changes in tooth shape are accompanied by changes in size, number, attachment, and often diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)930-943
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Josh Egan, Dr. Hiroyuki Motomura, Masatoshi Meguro, Gota Ogihara, Tomo Yoshida, Hajime Nishiyama, Dr. Yohei Nakamura, Dr. Hiromitsu Endo, Keita Takahashi, Keisuke Hirota, Naohide Nakayama, Dr. Atsunobu Murase, Dr. Georgina Cooke, Courtney Morgans, Dr. Kate Moots, Dr. Chien-Hsien Kuo. Uik-Sen Chew and Kathryn Sobocinski for help collecting specimens. We thank Dr. Samuel Iglésias at Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Dr. Gabriella Muñoz at Universidad de Val-paraíso, Dr. Luke Tornabene at University of Washington, Dr. Andrew Hoey at James Cook University, Dr. Cristián Hernández at Universidad de Concepción, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Auckland Museum, South Australian Museum and Australian Museum for providing additional tissue samples.

Funding Information:
This study was partially funded by the Dayton Research Fund Fellowship (Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota), Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, East Asia and Pacific Summer Program from Japan Society for Promotion of Science and National Science Foundation under grant no. OISE 1210051, East Asia and Pacific Summer Program, National Science Foundation and National Science Council of Taiwan under grant no. OISE 1414788 and Lerner Gray Memorial Fund for Marine Research (American Museum of Natural History). Research was conducted under animal care and use protocol 1005A82295 approved by the University of Minnesota Animal.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s). Evolution © 2018 The Society for the Study of Evolution.


  • Detritus
  • diet
  • fish
  • macroevolution
  • trophic morphology


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