Mystery Of Reef Fish Color Patterns Solved·
Scientists have solved the mystery of why some closely-related species of an iconic reef fish have vastly different colour patterns, while others look very similar.
Innovative research led by scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University, examined the differences in appearance of 42 species of the butterflyfish.
They found that on reefs where closely related butterflyfish species ranges overlap, the differences in colour patterns between the two were most pronounced.
The team used high-resolution digital colour photographs to quantify colour patterns and explore how they were influenced by evolutionary processes.
“Our results show that, over millions of years, butterflyfishes have evolved the greatest diversity of visual markings when they live in the same area as other, closely related species,” said lead author and Ph.D. student Christopher Hemingson.
“Crucially, we also found that this only happens when both species have ranges that are of similar sizes,” said Mr Hemingson.
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