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Oecologia

, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 272–279 | Cite as

Versatility and specialization in labrid fishes: ecomorphological implications

  • S. Laurie Sanderson
Original Papers

Summary

The term “specialized” has been used to describe species that possess unique functional attributes and/or a narrow, stereotyped range of attributes, but there are few comparative functional analyses of specialists and generalists. If species with functional morphological specializations are capable of functioning over a broad range, the link between morphology and ecology may be relaxed under certain environmental conditions. In this study, high-speed films of jaw movements during prey capture were compared statistically for three coexisting coral reef fish species in the family Labridae, one trophic specialist and two trophic generalists. The trophic specialist possessed a unique functional feature related to the movement of the hyoid in the floor of the mouth, while the trophic generalists were not observed to possess any functional specializations. All three species showed functional versatility in that they were able to adjust their prey capture mechanism in response to the evasive potential of the prey. The functional versatility of trophic specialists has implications for ecomorphological studies, since species characterized as possessing unique functional or morphological features may demonstrate marked flexibility in ecological variables such as diet or foraging behavior, decreasing the likelihood of identifying correlations between morphology and ecology.

Key words

Trophic specialist Ecomorphology Functional morphology Prey capture Generalist 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Laurie Sanderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Museum of Comparative ZoologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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