The Neotropical region hosts about one quarter of all freshwater species of the world. What are the processes that gave rise to such a great biodiversity, how this diversity is structured and why so many species can co-occur in Neotropical rivers are central questions in the field of evolution and ecology. The main objective of this project is to understand how fish assemblages are built in
Neotropical rivers based on an ecophylogenetic approach combining phylogenetics and historical biogeography, which are fields of expertise of the Swiss researcher, together with community ecology, the field of expertise of the Brazilian partner. To reach this goal, we will analyze the species-rich catfish genus Hypostomus, which is widespread and endemic to the Neotropics, and for which important knowledge has been produced by the Swiss investigator. Data about fish assemblages, ecological characteristics and phenotypic traits will be compiled from databases with the contribution of both research groups. We will infer the phylogeny and the historical biogeography of this genus, and the evolution of key phenotypic traits in order to reveal trait displacement and niche partitioning which are key processes in community ecology. The results
Of these analyses will enable us to draw a comprehensive picture of the mechanisms involved in assembling and structuring a congeneric fish community along Neotropical rivers. The expected results obtained from the execution of this project will bring new light on the evolution and the assembly of the great diversity characterizing the Neotropical biota, improving our understanding of the interactions between ecological network complexity and evolutionary factors in driving speciation, distribution, colonization and co-occurrence in the main basins of the Neotropics. The expected knowledge resulting from this project will also contribute to the possibility of developing efficient biodiversity management strategies and conservation actions.
Dr. Juan Ignacio Montoya-Burgos
Dr. Gislene Torrente-Vilara