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Rapid change in mammalian eye shape is explained by activity pattern

Baker, J. ORCID: and Venditti, C. (2019) Rapid change in mammalian eye shape is explained by activity pattern. Current Biology, 29 (6). pp. 1082-1088. ISSN 0960-9822

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.017


The rate of morphological evolution along the branches of a phylogeny varies widely [1-6]. Although such rate variation is often assumed to reflect the strength of historical natural selection resulting in adaptation [7-14], this lacks empirical and analytical evidence. One way to demonstrate a relationship between branchwise rates and adaptation would be to show that rapid rates of evolution are linked with ecological shifts or key innovations. Here we test for this link by determining whether activity pattern – the time of day at which species are active – explains rapid bursts of evolutionary change in eye shape. Using modern approaches to identify shifts in the rate of morphological evolution [7, 13], we find that over 74% of rapid eye shape change during mammalian evolutionary history is directly explained by distinct selection pressures acting on nocturnal, cathemeral, and diurnal species. Our results reveal how ecological changes occurring along the branches of a phylogeny can manifest in subsequent changes in the rate of morphological evolution. Although selective pressures exerted by different activity patterns have acted uniformly across all mammals, we find differences in the rate of eye shape evolution among orders. The key to understanding this is in how ecology itself has evolved. We find heterogeneity in how activity pattern has evolved among mammals that ultimately led to differences in the rate of eye shape evolution among species. Our approach represents an exciting new way to pinpoint factors driving adaptation, enabling a clearer understanding of what factors drive the evolution of biological diversity.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:82721


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