Freshwater habitats make up only ∼0.01% of available aquatic habitat and yet harbor 40% of all fish species, whereas marine habitats comprise >99% of available aquatic habitat and have only 60% of fish species. One possible explanation for this pattern is that diversification rates are higher in freshwater habitats than in marine habitats. We investigated diversification in marine and freshwater lineages in the New World silverside fish clade Menidiinae (Teleostei, Atherinopsidae). Using a time-calibrated phylogeny and a state-dependent speciation–extinction framework, we determined the frequency and timing of habitat transitions in Menidiinae and tested for differences in diversification parameters between marine and freshwater lineages. We found that Menidiinae is an ancestrally marine lineage that independently colonized freshwater habitats four times followed by three reversals to the marine environment. Our state-dependent diversification analyses showed that freshwater lineages have higher speciation and extinction rates than marine lineages. Net diversification rates were higher (but not significant) in freshwater than marine environments. The marine lineage-through time (LTT) plot shows constant accumulation, suggesting that ecological limits to clade growth have not slowed diversification in marine lineages. Freshwater lineages exhibited an upturn near the recent in their LTT plot, which is consistent with our estimates of high background extinction rates.
All sequence data are currently being archived on Genbank and phylogenetic trees archived on Treebase.