Does air-breathing constrain skull function and diversity in fishes? – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Does air-breathing constrain skull function and diversity in fishes?

Audrey Safir

Audrey Safir

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Research Mentor(s): Matthew Kolmann, Postdoctoral Researcher
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Museum of Paleontology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 1 (10am-10:50am)
Breakout Room: Room 17
Presenter: 8

Event Link


The anabantoids are a diverse clade of tropical and subtropical freshwater fishes distributed throughout Africa, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent notable for possessing air-breathing organs (ABOs). The ABO allows the anabantoids to breathe outside of water, making it a key innovation: a trait critical to diversification within a particular lineage. While it is unknown if these organs developed independently or from a single ancestral phenotype, fishes with ABOs are dependent on atmospheric oxygen, even drowning without it. The size and arrangement of the ABO influences the skeleton around it (phenotypic integration), and we predict that the ABO will covary in size and shape with skull structure. We visualized skull anatomy with micro-computed tomography (CT) scanning and then used linear morphometrics to capture skull shape variation. By plotting ABO shape changes against skull shape, this study investigated whether fishes with ABOs have more strongly integrated skulls. Using these data, this study will reveal the evolvability of the ABO itself, and the skulls of fishes with or without these organs. We expect: (1) that skull shape will co-vary accordingly with ABO shape and (2) that fishes with ABOs will have less diverse head shapes. Our dataset can also demonstrate how many times ABOs have evolved in anabantoids and whether these complex organs are capable of being lost, perhaps if no longer needed in certain habitats. We found that the ABOs have evolved two to three times independently across anabantarians.

Authors: Audrey Safir, Matthew Kolmann, Matthew Friedman
Research Method: Computer Programming

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