Characinae is one of the most species rich subfamilies of Characidae, and its members occur widely throughout South and Central America. They are small to medium sized fish, with the largest specimens not exceeding 240 mm in standard length. Most members of the group exhibit a deep anterior body with a characteristic gibbosity, though this is absent in Phenacogaster and Acestrocephalus. Though some morphological studies have examined the phylogenetic relationships within Characinae and the placement of this subfamily among the other subfamilies of Characidae, so far no phylogenetic study has densely sampled species within this subfamily to infer relationships using morphological or molecular characters. Characins have adopted three distinct feeding strategies: carnivory, omnivory and lepidophagy. The student author's Ph.D. thesis will examine the relationships among characin species using DNA sequences of about 2000 ultraconserved elements. We then propose to link dietary data and 3D reconstructions of skeletal morphology from micro-CT scanning to that phylogeny to test whether species favoring each diet evolve towards a distinct morphological optimum in head and body shape.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: