Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 44, Issue 1–3, pp 37–60 | Cite as

Ecomorphological correlates in ten species of subtropical seagrass fishes: diet and microhabitat utilization

  • Philip J. Motta
  • Kari B. Clifton
  • Patricia Hernandez
  • Bradley T. Eggold


Ecomorphological correlates were sought among ten species of distantly related subtropical seagrass fishes. Morphometric data associated with feeding and microhabitat utilization were compared by principal components analysis, cluster analysis, and canonical correspondence analysis to dietary data. Morphology was generally a poor predictor of diet except for a group of mid-water planktotrophic filter feeders. Separation of the species along morphological axes appears to be related more to microhabitat utilization resulting in three major groups: (1) a group of planktotrophic, mid-water fishes specialized for cruising and seeking out evasive prey characterized by a compressed fusiform body, forked caudal fin, long, closely spaced gill rakers, short to intermediate! length pectoral fin, pointed pectoral fin, large lateral eye, short head, and a terminal or subterminal mouth; (2) slow swimming, less maneuverable epibenthic fishes that pick or suck their prey off the substrate. They are united by more rounded caudal and pectoral fins, and short or no gill rakers; and (3) a group of more mobile and maneuverable epibenthic foragers characterized by a more compressed, sub-gibbose body, long, pointed pectoral fins, forked caudal fins, large lateral eyes, subterminal mouth, and greater jaw protrusibility. Cases of convergence in trophic and microhabitat utilization characters were apparent in some of the groups.

Key words

Tampa Bay Morphology Feeding Phylogeny Convergence Specialization Synopsis 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip J. Motta
    • 1
  • Kari B. Clifton
    • 1
  • Patricia Hernandez
    • 1
  • Bradley T. Eggold
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaU.S.A.
  2. 2.Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesPlymouthU.S.A.

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