Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 103, Issue 1, pp 115–123 | Cite as

Morphological trophic variation of the cyprinid Megalobrama pellegrini (Tchang, 1930) with different keratinized beaks from upper reaches of the Yangtze River, China

  • Zhi Zhang
  • Dan Yu
  • Dongdong Zhai
  • Fei Liu
  • Huanzhang LiuEmail author


Megalobrama pellegrini, a cyprinid endemic to the upper Yangtze River China, has thick keratinized beaks on the jaws and feeds on algae and molluscs. The size of keratinized beaks varies among different individuals. In the present study, two populations, from Longxihe (LXH) and Chishui (CSH) Rivers, were examined in order to explore the morphological variation of keratinized beaks, together with an analysis of intestine length and of stable isotopes. The results showed that the ratio of upper to lower keratinized beaks varied from 0.84 to 2.06. We defined the ratio < 1.25 as equal beak (EB) form, while >1.26 as thicker upper beak (TUB) form. In the LXH population, there were more TUB forms, while EB forms dominated in CSH population. Intestine length showed a negative relationship with the upper to lower beak ratio (Pearson correlation coefficient = −0.697, P < 0.01) indicating the possible adaptation of beak size to food type. In addition, analysis of stable isotope showed that these two populations differed in their food, and there was a positive relationship between trophic niche and size of beaks (R = 0.5530 and 0.4927, respectively). This further supported the suggestion that the beak size was possibly adapted to food type, with the TUB form to a higher trophic niche and the EB form to a lower trophic niche.


Adaptation Trophic differentiation Keratinized beak jaws Polymorphism Yangtze River 



We thank Zheng Gong, Wenjing Li, Ning Qiu, Chunling Wang, Xue Wang and Fubin Zhang for their kind help in collecting samples, laboratory work and photo capture. This work was supported by grants from the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB31040000), the Biodiversity Survey and Assessment Project of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China (2019HJ2096001006), the Research Project of China Three Gorges Corporation (0799570, 0799574) and the Special Program for Basic of Science and Technology Research (2014FY120200).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All experimental protocols in this study were approved by the Ethics Committee for Animal Experiments of the Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The methods used in this study were conducted in accordance with Laboratory Animal Management Principles of China.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Key Laboratory of Aquatic Biodiversity and Conservation of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of HydrobiologyChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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