Surfperch Clades Partition by Habitat, Suggesting Adaptive Radiation

Gary Longo and Giacomo Bernardi just published a paper on the evolutionary history of surfperch (embiotocidae) in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. They used RAD sequence data to describe the embiotocid radiation in the temperate North Pacific, and among the findings are (1) clades partition by habitat, suggesting adaptive radiation, and (2) the rise of kelp forests probably contributed to diversification.

Rainbow seaperch, Hypsurus caryi
Late Miocene expansion of kelp may have contributed to surfperch diversification

Longo, the lead author, was kind enough to send me this evocative photo of rainbow seaperch, Hypsurus caryi, in a central California kelp forest. Rainbows are part of a kelp-associated clade, which also includes Embiotoca and Brachyistius. Other ecological clusters of surfperch inhabit sandy beach (the Amphistichinae, frequent subjects on theoutershores!), estuary, seagrass, deepwater/soft bottom, and rocky reef habitats. In all, 24 species, clustered by habitat – a nice little radiation. Here’s how Longo and Bernardi say it:

…within Embiotocidae, we can see some remarkable ecological diversity that in many respects encompasses what is observed in more diverse families.

Clades partition by habitat
Embiotocid clades partition by habitat

The authors summarize habitat partitioning by simplifying surfperch habitats into categories, color coding their phylogenetic tree (inferred from genome-wide RAD markers), and illustrating the branch tips with drawings that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Larry Allen’s work, especially The Ecology of Marine Fishes. This pleasing figure also serves as the graphical abstract.

The paper will help get you up to speed on RAD sequence data and phylogenetic inference, and you’ll get insights into some taxonomic revisions we might expect down the road. Access the full article from Gary’s Publications page by clicking here.


Allen, L. G., D. Pondella II, and M. H. Horn. 2006. Ecology of marine fishes : California and adjacent waters. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Longo, G. and G. Bernardi. 2015. The evolutionary history of the embioticid surfperch radiation based on genome-wide RAD sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Volume 88, July 2015, 55-63.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s