Shared and Unique Features of Evolutionary Diversification
A fundamental question in evolutionary biology asks whether organisms experiencing similar selective pressures will evolve similar solutions or whether historical contingencies dominate the evolutionary process and yield disparate evolutionary outcomes. It is perhaps most likely that both shared selective forces as well as unique histories play key roles in the course of evolution. Consequently, when multiple species face a common environmental gradient, their patterns of divergence might
... t both shared and unique elements. Here we describe a general framework for investigating and evaluating the relative importance of these contrasting features of diversification. We examined morphological diversification in three species of livebearing fishes across a predation gradient. All species (Gambusia affinis from the United States of America, Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora from Costa Rica, and Poecilia reticulata from Trinidad) exhibited more elongate bodies, a larger caudal peduncle, and a relatively lower position of the eye in predator populations. This shared response suggests that common selective pressures generated parallel outcomes within three different species. However, each species also exhibited unique features of divergence, which might reflect phylogenetic tendencies, chance events, or localized environmental differences. In this system, we found that shared aspects of divergence were of larger magnitude than unique elements, suggesting common natural selective forces have played a greater role than unique histories in producing the observed patterns of morphological diversification. Assessing the nature and relative importance of shared and unique responses should aid in elucidating the relative generality or peculiarity in evolutionary divergence.