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April 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The “Canaries of the Reef” Are in Trouble

from the April, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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The evolutionary arms race underwater means many marine organisms have adapted to depend on coral reefs as part of their survival strategy against predators. Take the butterflyfish -- it traded its formerly slim, armored, hunter-like body for a squatter, more mobile one that's better for hiding in coral reef crags.

So says Jennifer Hodge, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California in Davis. Her research team collected 351 fossilized butterfly fish, representing 87 different species, and analyzed their physical attributes alongside their foraging behaviors. They found that the coral grazers' evolution has left them with smaller, less sensitive eyes, too. "Our findings constitute the strongest evidence to date that corals have influenced the evolution of fish morphology," Hodge says....

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