Genomic and biochemical evidence of dietary adaptation in a marine herbivorous fish. Academic Article uri icon


  • Adopting a new diet is a significant evolutionary change, and can profoundly affect an animal's physiology, biochemistry, ecology and genome. To study this evolutionary transition, we investigated the physiology and genomics of digestion of a derived herbivorous fish, Cebidichthys violaceus. We sequenced and assembled its genome (N50 = 6.7 Mb) and digestive transcriptome, and revealed the molecular changes related to digestive enzymes (carbohydrases, proteases and lipases), finding abundant evidence of molecular adaptation. Specifically, two gene families experienced expansion in copy number and adaptive amino acid substitutions: amylase and carboxyl ester lipase (cel), which are involved in the digestion of carbohydrates and lipids, respectively. Both show elevated levels of gene expression and increased enzyme activity. Because carbohydrates are abundant in the prickleback's diet and lipids are rare, these findings suggest that such dietary specialization involves both exploiting abundant resources and scavenging rare ones, especially essential nutrients, like essential fatty acids.

published proceedings

  • Proc Biol Sci

altmetric score

  • 193.91

author list (cited authors)

  • Heras, J., Chakraborty, M., Emerson, J. J., & German, D. P.

citation count

  • 21

complete list of authors

  • Heras, Joseph||Chakraborty, Mahul||Emerson, JJ||German, Donovan P

publication date

  • February 2020