Theory suggests that sexual traits evolve faster than ecological characters. However, characteristics of a species niche may also influence evolution of sexual traits. Hence, a pending question is whether ecological characters and sexual traits present similar tempo and mode of evolution during periods of rapid ecological divergence, such as adaptive radiation. Here, we use recently developed phylogenetic comparative methods to analyse the temporal dynamics of evolution for ecological and sexual traits in Tanganyikan cichlids. Our results indicate that whereas disparity in ecological characters was concentrated early in the radiation, disparity in sexual traits remained high throughout the radiation. Thus, closely related Tanganyikan cichlids presented higher disparity in sexual traits than ecological characters. Sexual traits were also under stronger selection than ecological characters. In sum, our results suggest that ecological characters and sexual traits present distinct evolutionary patterns, and that sexual traits can evolve faster than ecological characters, even during adaptive radiation.
Gonzalez-Voyer, A. and Kolm, N. 2011. Rates of phenotypic evolution of ecological characters and sexual traits during the Tanganyikan cichlid adaptive radiation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 24: 2378–2388.