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May 25, 2017
The search for phylogenetic signal in morphological traits using geometric morphometrics represents a powerful approach to estimate the relative weights of convergence and shared evolutionary history in shaping organismal form. We assessed phylogenetic signal in the form of ventral and dorsal haptoral anchors of 14 species of Ligophorus occurring on grey mullets (Osteichthyes: Mugilidae) from the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The phylogenetic relationships among these species were mapped onto the morphospaces of shape and size of dorsal and ventral anchors and two different tests were applied to establish whether the spatial positions in the morphospace were dictated by chance. Overall significant phylogenetic signal was found in the data. Allometric effects on anchor shape were moderate or non-significant in the case of evolutionary allometry. Relatively phylogenetically distant species occurring on the same host differed markedly in anchor morphology indicating little influence of host species on anchor form. Our results suggest that common descent and shared evolutionary history play a major role in determining the shape and, to a lesser degree in the size of haptoral anchors in Ligophorus spp. The present approach allowed tracing paths of morphological evolution in anchor shape. Species with narrow anchors and long shafts were associated predominately with Liza saliens. This morphology was considered to be ancestral relative to anchors of species occurring on Liza haematocheila and M. cephalus possessing shorter shafts and longer roots. Evidence for phylogenetic signal was more compelling for the ventral anchors, than for the dorsal ones, which could reflect different functional roles in attachment to the gills. Although phylogeny and homoplasy may act differently in other monogeneans, the present study delivers a common framework to address effectively the relationships among morphology, phylogeny and other traits, such as host specificity or niche occupancy.