Convergent evolution of weakly electric fishes from floodplain habitats in Africa and South America
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An assemblage of seven gymnotiform fishes in Venezuela was compared with an assemblage of six mormyriform fishes in Zambia to test the assumption of convergent evolution in the two groups of very distantly related, weakly electric, noctournal fishes. Both assemblages occur in strongly seasonal floodplain habitats, but the upper Zambezi floodplain in Zambia covers a much larger area. The two assemblages had broad diet overlap but relatively narrow overlap of morphological attributes associated with feeding. The gymnotiform assemblage had greater morphological variation, but mormyriforms had more dietary variation. There was ample evidence of evolutionary convergence based on both morphology and diet, and this was despite the fact that species pairwise morphological similarity and dietary similarity were uncorrelated in this dataset. For the most part, the two groups have diversified in a convergent fashion within the confines of their broader niche as nocturnal invertebrate feeders. Both assemblages contain midwater planktivores, microphagous vegetation-dwellers, macrophagous benthic foragers, and long-snouted benthic probers. The gymnotiform assemblage has one piscivore, a niche not represented in the upper Zambezi mormyriform assemblage, but present in the form of Mormyrops deliciousus in the lower Zambezi and many other regions of Africa.