Abstract

Liem, Karel F. (Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 02138) 1974. Evolutionary strategies and morphological innovations: Cichlid pharyngeal jaws. Syst. Zool. 22:425–441.—The percoid fish family Cichlidae possesses a phenomenal ability to colonize lakes and to diversify to an extent unmatched by any other vertebrate family in the presence of predator pressure and strong competition. The invading cichlids successfully occupy contiguous and occasionally overlapping adaptive zones and specialize progressively into diversified subzones, ramifying prodigiously and covering a breadth of total adaptation that would have been entirely unpredictable if we were aware only of the rudiments of the evolutionary process. This evolutionary avalanche can be attributed to the cooccurrence of a wide range of prospective adaptive zones in the lacustrine environment, and the presence of a unique morphological key innovation of maximum versatility. The new adaptive complex has been revealed in this study by electromyographic analysis synchronized with cineradiography of the cichlid pharyngeal jaw apparatus. The morphological novelty characterizing the family Cichlidae involves the development of: a synarthrosis between the lower pharyngeal jaws, a strategic shift of insertion of the two fourth levator externi muscles, and synovial joints between upper pharyngeal jaws and basicranium. This specialized, highly integrated key innovation enables the cichlids not only to transport (deglutination) but also to prepare food, freeing the premaxillary and mandibular jaws to evolve numerous specializations dealing with the collection of dramatically diverse foods. The functional integration of the innovation is so basic and its potential adaptive versatility so rich that it is maintained throughout the adaptive radiation even though numerous nondisruptive evolutionary changes do take place, providing prodigious opportunities for explosive evolution during the exploitation of rich resources of food in the lacustrine environment. The conversion of the preexisting elements into a new and significantly improved cichlid adaptive complex of high selective value may have evolved by rapid steps under influence of strong selection pressure acting on the minor reconstruction of the genotype which is involved in evolutionary changes of the pertinent ontogenetic mechanisms. Such relatively simple evolutionary processes are probably the cause for the general phenomenon that only slight reconstructions of existing structures are necessary for successful and rapid adaptation to drastic shifts of adaptive zones.

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