Divergent ontogenies of trophic morphology in two closely related haplochromine cichlids
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Journal of morphology. - Philadelphia, Pa
, p. 860-871
University of Antwerp
Fish develop morphological specializations in their trophic and locomotor systems as a result of varying functional demands in response to environmental pressures at different life stages. These specializations should maximize particular performances in specialists, adapting them to their trophic and habitat niches at each ontogenetic stage. Because differential growth rates of the structural components comprised in the head are likely to be linked to the diet of a fish throughout its development, we investigated the ontogenetic development of two haplochromine cichlid species belonging to different trophic guilds. We employed geometric morphometric techniques to evaluate whether starting from morphologically similar fry they diverge into phenotypes that characterize trophic guilds and locomotor types. Our examination of overall body shape shows that certain specialized morphological features are already present in fry, whereas other traits diverge through ontogeny due to differences in species-specific allometric variation. Allometric shape variation was found to be more relevant for the biter specialist than for the sucker morphotype. Our results confirm that phenotypic changes during ontogeny can be linked to dietary and habitat shifts in these fish. Furthermore, evidence for an integrated development of trophic and locomotor specializations in morphology was observed. J. Morphol. 276:860-871, 2015. (c) 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.