The diversity of fishes on coral reefs is influenced by the evolution of feeding innovations. For instance, the evolution of an intramandibular jaw joint has aided shifts to corallivory in Chaetodon butterflyfishes following their Miocene colonization of coral reefs. Today, over half of all Chaetodon species consume coral, easily the largest concentration of corallivores in any reef fish family. In contrast with Chaetodon, other chaetodontids, including the long-jawed bannerfishes, remain less intimately associated with coral and mainly consume other invertebrate prey. Here, we test (i) if intramandibular joint (IMJ) evolution in Chaetodon has accelerated feeding morphological diversification, and (ii) if cranial and post-cranial traits were affected similarly. We measured 19 cranial functional morphological traits, gut length and body elongation for 33 Indo-Pacific species. Comparisons of Brownian motion rate parameters revealed that cranial diversification was about four times slower in Chaetodon butterflyfishes with the IMJ than in other chaetodontids. However, the rate of gut length evolution was significantly faster in Chaetodon, with no group-differences for body elongation. The contrasting patterns of cranial and post-cranial morphological evolution stress the importance of comprehensive datasets in ecomorphology. The IMJ appears to enhance coral feeding ability in Chaetodon and represents a design breakthrough that facilitates this trophic strategy. Meanwhile, variation in gut anatomy probably reflects diversity in how coral tissues are procured and assimilated. Bannerfishes, by contrast, retain a relatively unspecialized gut for processing invertebrate prey, but have evolved some of the most extreme cranial mechanical innovations among bony fishes for procuring elusive prey.
The R script is an example and not the entire analysis as it was batch processed (the simulation for the bootstrapping takes a lot of time and was sped up by running each trait on a separate CPU). All data files needed to run the R script are provided. Sequence alignments are also provided and refer to Bellwood et al. 2010. Evolutionary history of the butterflyfishes (f: Chaetodontidae) and the rise of coral feeding fishes. J. Evol. Biol. 23:335-349