A brightly iridescent fish nibbling on a reef in a clear blue ocean
Reef fish evolved the ability to feed by biting prey from surfaces relatively recently, a UC Davis study shows. The innovation has driven an explosion of evolution in reef fish. Image shows a rainbow parrotfish on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. (Getty Images)

Reef Fish Evolution Driven by Biting

Coral reefs are home to a spectacular variety of fish. A new study by biologists at the University of California, Davis, shows that much of this diversity is driven by a relatively recent innovation among bony fish — feeding by biting prey from surfaces. The work is published the week of July 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although jawed fish appear in the fossil record almost 500 million years ago, feeding by grazing, nibbling or gnawing food off rocks and corals didn’t appear among the teleosts (the group that includes most bony fish) until after the dinosaur-killing mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period, about 60 million years ago, according to the new study.

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