Snout allometry in seahorses: insights on optimisation of pivot feeding performance during ontogeny
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
The journal of experimental biology. - London
, p. 2184-2193
University of Antwerp
As juvenile life-history stages are subjected to strong selection, these stages often show levels of performance approaching those of adults, or show a disproportionately rapid increase of performance with age. Although testing performance capacity in aquatic suction feeders is often problematic, in pivot feeders such as seahorses models have been proposed to estimate whether snout length is optimal to minimise the time needed to reach the prey. Here, we investigate whether the same model can also explain the snout lengths in an ontogenetic series of seahorses, explore how pivot feeding kinematics change during ontogeny, and test whether juveniles show disproportionate levels of performance. Our analysis shows that the dimensions of the snout change during ontogeny from short and broad to long and narrow. Model calculations show that the snout lengths of newborn and juvenile seahorses are nearly optimal for minimising prey reach time. However, in juveniles the centre of head rotation in the earth-bound frame of reference is located near the posterior end of the head, whereas in adults it is shifted forward and is located approximately above the eye. Modelling shows that this forward shift in the centre of rotation has the advantage of decreasing the moment of inertia and the torque required to rotate the head, but has the disadvantage of slightly increasing the time needed to reach the prey. Thus, the snout lengths of juvenile seahorses appear to be close to optimal, suggesting that they reach levels of performance close to adult levels, which illustrates the pervasive nature of selection on performance in juveniles.