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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The impact of organismal innovation on functional and ecological diversification

  • Author(s): Wainwright, PC
  • Price, SA
  • et al.

© 2016 The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved. Innovations in organismal functional morphology are thought to be a major force in shaping evolutionary patterns, with the potential to drive adaptive radiation and influence the evolutionary prospects for lineages. But the evolutionary consequences of innovation are diverse and usually do not result in adaptive radiation. What factors shape the macroevolutionary impact of innovations? We assert that little is known in general about the macroevolutionary outcomes associated with functional innovations and we discuss a framework for studying biological innovations in an evolutionary context. Innovations are novel functional mechanisms that enhance organismal performance. The ubiquity of trade-offs in functional systems means that enhanced performance on one axis often occurs at the expense of performance on another axis, such that many innovations result in an exchange of performance capabilities, rather than an expansion. Innovations may open up new resources for exploitation but their consequences for functional and ecological diversification depend heavily on the adaptive landscape around these novel resources. As an example of a broader program that we imagine, we survey five feeding innovations in labrid fishes, an exceptionally successful and ecologically diverse group of reef fishes, and explore their impact on the rate of evolution of jaw functional morphology. All of the innovations provide performance enhancements and result in changes in patterns of resource use, but most are not associated with subsequent functional diversification or substantial ecological diversification. Because selection acts on a specific performance enhancement and not on the evolutionary potential of an innovation, the enhancement of diversity may be highly serendipitous. The macroevolutionary potential of innovations depends critically on the interaction between the performance enhancement and the ecological opportunity that is exposed.

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