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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Independent evolution of the specialized pharyngeal jaw apparatus in cichlid and labrid fishes

Kohji Mabuchi1*, Masaki Miya2, Yoichiro Azuma1 and Mutsumi Nishida1

Author Affiliations

1 Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 1-15-1 Minamidai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan

2 Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum & Institute, Chiba, 955-2 Aoba-cho, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8682, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-10

Published: 30 January 2007



Fishes in the families Cichlidae and Labridae provide good probable examples of vertebrate adaptive radiations. Their spectacular trophic radiations have been widely assumed to be due to structural key innovation in pharyngeal jaw apparatus (PJA), but this idea has never been tested based on a reliable phylogeny. For the first step of evaluating the hypothesis, we investigated the phylogenetic positions of the components of the suborder Labroidei (including Pomacentridae and Embiotocidae in addition to Cichlidae and Labridae) within the Percomorpha, the most diversified (> 15,000 spp) crown clade of teleosts. We examined those based on 78 whole mitochondrial genome sequences (including 12 newly determined sequences) through partitioned Bayesian analyses with concatenated sequences (13,933 bp).


The resultant phylogenies indicated that the Labridae and the remaining three labroid families have diverged basally within the Percomorpha, and monophyly of the suborder was confidently rejected by statistical tests using Bayes factors.


The resultant phylogenies indicated that the specified PJA evolved independently at least twice, once in Labridae and once in the common ancestor of the remaining three labroid families (including the Cichlidae). Because the independent evolution of pharyngeal jaws appears to have been followed by trophic radiations, we consider that our result supports, from the aspect of historical repeatability, the idea that the evolution of the specialized PJA provided these lineages with the morphological potential for their spectacular trophic radiations. The present result will provide a new framework for the study of functional morphology and genetic basis of their PJA.