Differentiation and adaptive radiation of amphibious gobies (Gobiidae: Oxudercinae) in semi-terrestrial habitats


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During several surveys made in the region of the lower Fly River and delta, Papua New Guinea, nine species of oxudercine gobies (Gobiidae: Oxudercinae) were recorded: Boleophthalmus caeruleomaculatus, Oxuderces wirzi, Periophthalmodon freycineti, Periophthalmus darwini, Periophthalmus novaeguineaensis, Periophthalmus takita, Periophthalmus weberi, Scartelaos histophorus and Zappa confluentus. An exploratory multivariate analysis of their habitat conditions discriminated five guilds, differentially distributed in habitats with different quantities of environmental water and three guilds corresponding to different levels of salinity. A partial correspondence between phylogenetic and ecological categories suggested the presence of parallel adaptive radiations within different genera. In particular, the species found in the most terrestrial habitats (P. weberi) was also found in the widest range of conditions, suggesting that colonization of extreme semi-terrestrial and freshwater habitats by this species was facilitated by eurytypy. It is proposed that these findings provide insight into convergent adaptations for the vertebrate eco-evolutionary transition from sea to land.