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Keywords:

  • Character displacement;
  • ecomorphology;
  • morphological diversity;
  • species co-occurrence

When the morphological diversity of a clade of species is quantified as the among-species variance in morphology, that diversity is a joint consequence of the phylogenetic structure of the clade (i.e., temporal pattern of speciation events) and the rates of change in the morphological traits of interest. Extrinsic factors have previously been linked to variation in the rate of morphological change among clades. Here, we ask whether species co-occurrence is positively correlated with the rate of change in several ecologically relevant morphological characters using the North American freshwater fish clade Percina (Teleostei: Etheostomatinae). We constructed a time-calibrated phylogenetic tree of Percina from mtDNA sequence data, gathered data on eight morphological characters from 37 species, used a principal components analysis to identify the primary axes of morphological variation, and analyzed 16,094 collection records to estimate species co-occurrence. We then calculated standardized independent contrasts (SIC) of the morphological traits (rate of change) at each node, estimated ancestral species co-occurrence, and quantified the correlation between species co-occurrence and rate of morphological change. We find that morphology changes more quickly when co-occurrence is greater in Percina. Our results provide strong evidence that co-occurrence among close relatives is linked to the morphological diversification of this clade.