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Evolutionary pathways toward gigantism in sharks and rays


Pimiento, Catalina; Cantalapiedra, Juan L; Shimada, Kenshu; Field, Daniel J; Smaers, Jeroen B (2019). Evolutionary pathways toward gigantism in sharks and rays. Evolution, 73(3):588-599.

Abstract

Through elasmobranch (sharks and rays) evolutionary history, gigantism evolved multiple times in phylogenetically distant species, some of which are now extinct. Interestingly, the world's largest elasmobranchs display two specializations found never to overlap: filter feeding and mesothermy. The contrasting lifestyles of elasmobranch giants provide an ideal case study to elucidate the evolutionary pathways leading to gigantism in the oceans. Here, we applied a phylogenetic approach to a global dataset of 459 taxa to study the evolution of elasmobranch gigantism. We found that filter feeders and mesotherms deviate from general relationships between trophic level and body size, and exhibit significantly larger sizes than ectothermic‐macropredators. We confirm that filter feeding arose multiple times during the Paleogene, and suggest the possibility of a single origin of mesothermy in the Cretaceous. Together, our results elucidate two main evolutionary pathways that enable gigantism: mesothermic and filter feeding. These pathways were followed by ancestrally large clades and facilitated extreme sizes through specializations for enhancing prey intake. Although a negligible percentage of ectothermic‐macropredators reach gigantic sizes, these species lack such specializations and are correspondingly constrained to the lower limits of gigantism. Importantly, the very adaptive strategies that enabled the evolution of the largest sharks can also confer high extinction susceptibility.

Abstract

Through elasmobranch (sharks and rays) evolutionary history, gigantism evolved multiple times in phylogenetically distant species, some of which are now extinct. Interestingly, the world's largest elasmobranchs display two specializations found never to overlap: filter feeding and mesothermy. The contrasting lifestyles of elasmobranch giants provide an ideal case study to elucidate the evolutionary pathways leading to gigantism in the oceans. Here, we applied a phylogenetic approach to a global dataset of 459 taxa to study the evolution of elasmobranch gigantism. We found that filter feeders and mesotherms deviate from general relationships between trophic level and body size, and exhibit significantly larger sizes than ectothermic‐macropredators. We confirm that filter feeding arose multiple times during the Paleogene, and suggest the possibility of a single origin of mesothermy in the Cretaceous. Together, our results elucidate two main evolutionary pathways that enable gigantism: mesothermic and filter feeding. These pathways were followed by ancestrally large clades and facilitated extreme sizes through specializations for enhancing prey intake. Although a negligible percentage of ectothermic‐macropredators reach gigantic sizes, these species lack such specializations and are correspondingly constrained to the lower limits of gigantism. Importantly, the very adaptive strategies that enabled the evolution of the largest sharks can also confer high extinction susceptibility.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Paleontological Institute and Museum
Dewey Decimal Classification:560 Fossils & prehistoric life
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Life Sciences > Genetics
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:Genetics, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Language:English
Date:1 March 2019
Deposited On:11 Feb 2021 08:35
Last Modified:23 Feb 2021 12:33
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0014-3820
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.13680
Project Information:
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID663830
  • : Project TitleSIRCIW - Strengthening International Research Capacity in Wales

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