Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 44, Issue 1–3, pp 97–113 | Cite as

Predicting patterns of prey use from morphology of fishes

  • Peter C. Wainwright
  • Barton A. Richard


Ecomorphological analyses that search for patterns of association between morphological and prey-use data sets will have a greater chance of understanding the causal relationships between form and diet if the morphological variables used have known consequences for feeding performance. We explore the utility of fish body size, mouth gape and jaw-lever mechanics in predicting patterns of prey use in two very different communities of fishes, Caribbean coral reef fishes, and species of the Centrarchidae that live in Lake Opinicon, Ontario. In spite of major differences in the spectrum of potential prey available, the centrarchids of Lake Opinicon show dietary transitions during ontogeny that are very similar to those seen among and within species of Caribbean groupers (Serranidae). The transition from small zooplankton to intermediate sized invertebrates and ultimately to fishes appears to be very general in ram-suction feeding fishes and is probably driven largely by the constraints of mouth size on prey capture ability. The jaw-lever systems for mouth opening and closing represent direct trade-offs for speed and force of jaw movement. The ratio of in-lever to out-lever in the opening system changes during ontogeny in bluegill, indicating that the mechanics and kinematics of jaw movement may change as well. Among 34 species of Caribbean reef fishes, biting species had jaw-closing ratios that favored force translation, while species that employ rapid-strike ram-suction had closing ratios that enhanced speed of closing and mouth opening ratios that favored a more rapid expansion of the mouth during the strike. We suggest that when prey are categorized into functional groups, reflecting the specific performance features that are important in capturing and handling them, and the differences among habitats in the available prey resource are taken into account, general patterns can be found in morphology-diet relations that cross phylogenetic boundaries.

Key words:

Ecomorphology Serranidae Centrachidae Jaw mechanics Gape limited feeding Allometry Feeding ecology 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References cited

  1. Bailey J.E., B.L. Wing & C.R. Mattson. 1975. Zooplankton abundance and feeding habits of fry of pink salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, and chum salmon, Oncorhynchus keta, in Traitors Cove, Alaska, with speculations on the carrying capacity of the area. U.S. Fish. Bull. 73: 846–861.Google Scholar
  2. Barel, C.D.N. 1983. Towards a constructional morphology of the cichlid fishes (Teleostei, Perciformes). Neth. J. Zool. 33: 357–424.Google Scholar
  3. Böhlke, J.E. & C.C.G. Chaplin. 1968. Fishes of the Bahamas and adjacent tropical waters. Publ. Acad. Nat. Sci., Philadelphia. 771 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Carr, W.E.S. & C.A. Adams. 1973. Food habits of juvenile marine fishes occupying seagrass beds in the estuarine zone near Crystal River, Florida. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 102: 511–540.Google Scholar
  5. Chao, L.N. & J.A. Musick. 1977. Life history, feeding habits, and functional morphology of juvenile sciaenid fishes in the York River Estuary, Virginia. U.S. Fish. Bull. 75: 657–702.Google Scholar
  6. Clarke, R.D. 1977. Habitat distribution and species diversity of chaetodontid and pomacanthid fishes near Bimini, Bahamas. Mar. Biol. 40: 277–289.Google Scholar
  7. Douglas, M.E. 1987. An ecomorphological analysis of niche packing and niche dispersion in stream-fish clades. pp. 144–149. In: W.S. Matthews & D.C. Heins(ed.) Community and Evolutionary Ecology of North American Stream Fishes, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.Google Scholar
  8. Drenner, R.W. G.L. Vinyard, M. Gophen & S.R. McComas. 1982. Feeding behavior of the cichlid, Sarotherodon galdaeum: selective predation on Lake Kinneret zooplankton. Hydrobiol. 87: 17–20.Google Scholar
  9. Ehlinger, T.J. 1990. Habitat choice and phenotype-limited feeding efficiency in bluegill: individual differences and trophic polymorphism. Ecology 71: 886–896.Google Scholar
  10. Emerson, S.B., H. Greene & E. Charnov. 1994. Allometric aspects of predator-prey interactions. In: P.C. Wainwright & S.M. Reilly(ed.) Ecological Morphology: Integrative Organismal Biology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. (in press).Google Scholar
  11. Felley, J.D. 1984. Multivariate identification of morphological-environment relationships within the Cyprinidae (Pisces). Copeia 1984: 442–455.Google Scholar
  12. Felsenstein, J. 1985. Phylogenies and the comparative method. Amer. Nat. 125: 1–15.Google Scholar
  13. Gatz, A.J., Jr. 1979a. Ecological morphology of freshwater stream fishes. Tulane Stud. Zool. Bot. 21: 91–124.Google Scholar
  14. Gatz, A.J., Jr. 1979b. Community organization in fishes as indicated by morphological features. Ecology 60: 711–718.Google Scholar
  15. Gladfelter, W.B. & W.S. Johnson. 1983. Feeding niche separation in a guild of tropical reef fishes (Holocentridae). Ecology 64: 552–563.Google Scholar
  16. Godin, J.G.J. 1981. Daily patterns of feeding behavior, daily rations, and diets of juvenile pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) in two marine bays of British Columbia. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 38: 10–15.Google Scholar
  17. Greene, C.H. 1983. Selective predation in freshwater zooplankton communities. Internationale Rev. Gesamten Hydrobiologie 68: 297–315.Google Scholar
  18. Grossman, G.D. 1986. Food resource partitioning in a rocky intertidal fish assemblage. J. Zool., Lond. (B) 1: 317–355.Google Scholar
  19. Harvey, P.H. & M.D. Pagel. 1991. The comparative method in evolutionary biology. Oxford University Press, New York. 239 pp.Google Scholar
  20. Hildebrand, M. 1985. Walking and running, pp. 38–72. In: M. Hildebrand, D.M. Bramble, K.F. Liem & D.B. Wake(ed.) Functional Vertebrate Morphology, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  21. Hoyle, J.A. & A. Keast. 1987. The effect of prey morphology and size on handling time in a piscivore, the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). Can. J. Zool. 65: 1972–1977.Google Scholar
  22. Hyatt, K.D. 1979. Feeding strategies. pp. 71–119. In: W.S. Hoar, D.J. Randall & J.R. Brett (ed.) Fish Physiology, Volume 3, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  23. Jansen, J. 1976. Feeding mode and prey size selection in the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus). J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 33: 1972–1975.Google Scholar
  24. Johnson, G.D. & C. Patterson. 1993. Percomorph phylogeny: a survey of acanthomorphs and a new proposal. Bull. Mar. Sci. 52: 544–627.Google Scholar
  25. Keast, A. 1978. Trophic and spatial relationships in the fish species of an Ontario temperate lake. Env. Biol. Fish. 3: 7–31.Google Scholar
  26. Keast, A. 1985. The piscivore feeding guild of fishes in small freshwater ecosystems. Env. Biol. Fish. 12: 119–129.Google Scholar
  27. Keast, A. & D. Webb. 1966. Mouth and body form relative to feeding ecology in the fishes of a small lake, Lake Opinicon, Ontario. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 25: 1133–1144.Google Scholar
  28. Kislalioglu, M. & R.N. Gibson. 1976. Prey ‘handling time’ and its importance in food selection by the 15 spined stickleback, Spinachia spinachia (L.). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 25: 115–158.Google Scholar
  29. Kotrschal, K. & A. Goldschmid. 1983. Food preferences, morphology and arrangement of teeth of 14 species of Adriatic blennies (Pisces, Teleostei). Thalassia 19: 217–219.Google Scholar
  30. Lauder, G.V. 1983. Functional and morphological bases of trophic specialization in sunfishes (Teleostei, Centrarchidae). J. Morphol. 178: 1–21.Google Scholar
  31. Lawrence, J.M. 1957. Estimated size of various forage fishes largemouth bass can swallow. Proc. Southeastern Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 11: 220–226.Google Scholar
  32. Liem, K.F. 1980. Acquisition of energy by teleosts: adaptive mechanisms and evolutionary patterns, pp. 299–334: In: M.A. Ali(ed.) Environmental Physiology of Fishes, Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Luczkovich, J.J. 1988. The role of prey detection in the selection of prey by pinfish Lagodon rhomboides (Linnaeus). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 123: 15–30.Google Scholar
  34. McDonald, J. 1960. The behavior of Pacific salmon in their downstream migration to freshwater and saltwater nursery areas. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 17: 655–676.Google Scholar
  35. Mittelbach, G.G. 1984. Predation and resource partitioning in two sunfishes. Ecology 65: 499–513.Google Scholar
  36. Mittelbach, G.G. 1988. Competition among refuging sunfishes and effects of fish density of littoral zone invertebrates. Ecology 69: 614–623.Google Scholar
  37. Motta, P.J. 1988. Functional morphology of the feeding apparatus of ten species of Pacific butterflyfishes (Perciformes, Chaetodontidae): an ecomorphological approach. Env. Biol. Fish. 22: 39–67.Google Scholar
  38. Motta, P.J. & K.M. Kotrschal. 1992. Correlative, experimental, and comparative experimental approaches in ecomorphology. Neth. J. Zool. 42: 400–415.Google Scholar
  39. Mullaney, M.D., Jr. 1994. Ontogenetic shifts in diet of gag, Mycteroperca microlepis (Pisces: Serranidae) Proc. Gulf Carib. Fish Inst. 43: 423–446.Google Scholar
  40. Mummert, J.R. & R.W. Drenner. 1986. Effect of fish size on the filtering efficiency and selective particle ingestion of a filter-feeding clupeid. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 115: 522–528.Google Scholar
  41. Norton, S.F. 1991. Capture success and diet of cottid fishes: the role of predator morphology and attack kinematics. Ecology 72: 1807–1819.Google Scholar
  42. Norton, S.F. & E.L. Brainerd. 1993. Convergence in the feeding mechanics of ecomorphologically similar species in the Centrarchidae and Cichlidae. J. Exp. Biol. 176: 11–29.Google Scholar
  43. Osenberg, C.W. & G.G. Mittelbach. 1989. Effects of body size on the predator-prey interaction between pumpkinseed sunfish and gastropods. Ecol. Monogr. 59: 405–432.Google Scholar
  44. Palmer, A.R. 1979. Fish predation and the evolution of gastropod shell sculpture: experimental and geographic evidence. Evolution 33: 697–713.Google Scholar
  45. Randall, J.E. 1965. Food habits of the nassau grouper (Epinephalus striatus). Proc. Assoc. Island Mar. Lab. 6: 13–16.Google Scholar
  46. Randall, J.E. 1967. Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Stud. Trop. Oceanogr. 5: 665–847.Google Scholar
  47. Randall, J.E. 1969. Caribbean reef fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City. 318 pp.Google Scholar
  48. Richard, B.A. & P.C. Wainwright. 1995. Scaling the feeding mechanism of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). I. Kinematics of prey capture. J. Exp. Biol. (in press).Google Scholar
  49. Rosen, R.A. & D.C. Hales. 1981. Feeding of paddlefish, Polyodon spathula. Copeia 1981: 441–455.Google Scholar
  50. Ruelle, R. & P.L. Hudson. 1977. Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula): growth and food of young of the year and suggested techniques for measuring length. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 106: 609–613.Google Scholar
  51. Starck, W.A., II & R.E. Schroeder. 1971. Investigations on the grey snapper, Lutjanus grisseus. Stud. Trop. Oceanogr. 10: 1–150.Google Scholar
  52. Sterrer, W. 1986. Marine fauna and flora of Bermuda. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 742 pp.Google Scholar
  53. Stoner, A.W. 1980. Feeding ecology of Lagodon rhomboides (Pisces, Sparidae): variation and functional response. U.S. Fish. Bull. 81: 837–846.Google Scholar
  54. Stoner, A.W. & R.D. Livingston. 1984. Ontogenetic patterns in diet and feeding morphology in sympatric sparid fishes from seagrass meadows. Copeia 1984: 174–187.Google Scholar
  55. Strauss, R.E. 1984. Allometry and functional feeding morphology in haplochromine cichlids. pp. 217–230. In: A.A. Echelle & I. Kornfield(ed.) Evolution of Fish Species Flocks, University of Maine Press, Orono.Google Scholar
  56. Turingan, R.D. & P.C. Wainwright. 1993. Morphological and functional bases of durophagy in the queen triggerfish, Balistes vetula (Pisces, Tetradontiformes). J. Morphol. 215: 101–118.Google Scholar
  57. Wainwright, P.C. 1986. Motor correlates of learning behavior: feeding on novel prey by the pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibossus). J. Exp. Biol. 126: 237–247.Google Scholar
  58. Wainwright, P.C. 1987. Biomechanical limits to ecological performance: mollusc-crusing in the Caribbean hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus). J. Zool., Lond. 213: 283–297.Google Scholar
  59. Wainwright, P.C. 1988. Morphology and ecology: functional basis of feeding constraints in Caribbean labrid fishes. Ecology 69: 635–645.Google Scholar
  60. Wainwright, P.C. 1991. Ecomorphology: experimental functional anatomy for ecological problems. Amer. Zool. 31: 680–693.Google Scholar
  61. Wainwright, P.C. & G.V. Lauder. 1986. Feeding biology of sunfishes: patterns of variation in prey capture. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. Lond. 88: 217–228.Google Scholar
  62. Werner, E.E. 1974. The fish size, prey size, handling time relation and some implications. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 31: 1531–1536.Google Scholar
  63. Werner, E.E. 1977. Species packing and niche complementarity in three sunfishes. Amer. Nat. 111: 553–578.Google Scholar
  64. Werner, E.E. & J.F. Gilliam. 1984. The ontogenetic niche and species interactions in size-structured populations. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 15: 393–425.Google Scholar
  65. Westneat, M.W. 1990. Feeding mechanics of teleost fishes (Labridae: Perciformes): a test of four-bar linkage models. J. Morphol. 205: 269–295.Google Scholar
  66. Westneat, M.W. 1991. Linkage biomechanics and evolution of the jaw protrusion mechanism of the sling-jaw wrasse, Epibulus insidiator. J. Exp. Biol. 159: 165–184.Google Scholar
  67. Wikramanayake, E.D. 1990. Ecomorphology and biogeography of a tropical fish assemblage: evolution of assemblage structure. Ecology 71: 1756–1764.Google Scholar
  68. Winemiller, K.O. 1991. Ecomorphological diversification in lowland freshwater fish assemblages from five biotic regions. Ecol. Monogr. 61: 343–365.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter C. Wainwright
    • 1
  • Barton A. Richard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations