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Abstract

Neotropical freshwater fishes (NFFs) constitute the most diverse continental vertebrate fauna on Earth, with more than 6,200 named species compressed into an aquatic footprint <0.5% of the total regional land-surface area and representing the greatest phenotypic disparity and functional diversity of any continental ichthyofauna. Data from the fossil record and time-calibrated molecular phylogenies indicate that most higher taxa (e.g., genera, families) diversified relatively continuously through the Cenozoic, across broad geographic ranges of the South American platform. Biodiversity data for most NFF clades support a model of continental radiation rather than adaptive radiation, in which speciation occurs mainly in allopatry, and speciation and adaptation are largely decoupled. These radiations occurred under the perennial influence of river capture and sea-level oscillations, which episodically fragmented and merged portions of adjacent river networks. The future of the NFF fauna into the Anthropocene is uncertain, facing numerous threats at local, regional, and continental scales.

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2020-11-02
2024-06-17
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