5 years ago

Plant feeding promotes diversification in the Crustacea [Evolution]

Plant feeding promotes diversification in the Crustacea [Evolution]
Erik E. Sotka, Shane T. Ahyong, James K. Lowry, Alistair G. B. Poore

About half of the world’s animal species are arthropods associated with plants, and the ability to consume plant material has been proposed to be an important trait associated with the spectacular diversification of terrestrial insects. We review the phylogenetic distribution of plant feeding in the Crustacea, the other major group of arthropods that commonly consume plants, to estimate how often plant feeding has arisen and to test whether this dietary transition is associated with higher species numbers in extant clades. We present evidence that at least 31 lineages of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial crustaceans (including 64 families and 185 genera) have independently overcome the challenges of consuming plant material. These plant-feeding clades are, on average, 21-fold more speciose than their sister taxa, indicating that a shift in diet is associated with increased net rates of diversification. In contrast to herbivorous insects, most crustaceans have very broad diets, and the increased richness of taxa that include plants in their diet likely results from access to a novel resource base rather than host-associated divergence.

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