Convergent evolution of alternative developmental trajectories associated with diapause in African and South American killifish

Andrew I. Furness, David N. Reznick, Mark S. Springer, Robert W. Meredith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Annual killifish adapted to life in seasonally ephemeral water-bodies exhibit desiccation resistant eggs that can undergo diapause, a period of developmental arrest, enabling them to traverse the otherwise inhospitable dry season. Environmental cues that potentially indicate the season can govern whether eggs enter a stage of diapause mid-way through development or skip this diapause and instead undergo direct development. We report, based on construction of a supermatrix phylogenetic tree of the order Cyprinodontiformes and a battery of comparative analyses, that the ability to produce diapause eggs evolved independently at least six times within African and South American killifish. We then show in species representative of these lineages that embryos entering diapause display significant reduction in development of the cranial region and circulatory system relative to directdeveloping embryos. This divergence along alternative developmental pathways begins mid-way through development, well before diapause is entered, during a period of purported maximum developmental constraint (the phylotypic period). Finally, we show that entering diapause is accompanied by a dramatic reduction in metabolic rate and concomitant increase in long-term embryo survival. Morphological divergence during the phylotypic period thus allows embryos undergoing diapause to conserve energy by shunting resources away from energetically costly organs thereby increasing survival chances in an environment that necessitates remaining dormant, buried in the soil and surrounded byan eggshell formuch of the year.Our results indicate that adaptation to seasonal aquatic environments in annual killifish imposes strong selection during the embryo stage leading to marked diversification during this otherwise conserved period of vertebrate development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20142189
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1802
StatePublished - 28 Jan 2015


  • Adaptation
  • Annual life cycle
  • Cyprinodontiformes


Dive into the research topics of 'Convergent evolution of alternative developmental trajectories associated with diapause in African and South American killifish'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this