The historical origins of the Neotropical fauna have fascinated generations of evolutionary biologists, however it has been only in the last decades that ichthyologists have come to appreciate the antiquity of many lineages, including those of the order Characiformes. This proposal aims to investigate historical gradients of clade richness in the Neotropics by integrating data on evolutionary relationships and spatial distributions of Characiformes. Specifically, it intends to combine divergence time estimates and distributional maps of characiform species to examine general patterns of clade richness through time and, thus to understand their geographic range evolution since the breakup of Gondwana (c. 90 myr). Testing historical biogeography hypotheses typically requires two kinds of data objects: a reliable phylogeny and a curated database of species distributions. Relationships within Characiformes are still controversial, especially between the African and Neotropical clades. Hence, a time-calibrated tree will be estimated using cutting-edge methods for trimming and filtering alignments. Further, a reliable GPS-based database will be assembled based on information from taxonomic publications, museum collections, metadata repositories, and by consulting specialists of several groups. Each of these methodological steps will be conducted using innovative bioinformatics pipelines to guarantee reproducibility and data reliability. In summary, this proposal will combine the temporal context (evolutionary relationships) and spatial context (species distributions) of Characiformes to investigate historical gradients of clade richness in the Neotropics, especially among the freshwater systems located in the trans-Andean regions, Amazonian lowland floodplains, South American upland shields, and cis-Andean coastal drainages; i.e. it will reveal spatiotemporal patterns of range evolution at continental scale and since the Cretaceous.
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