Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 957–974 | Cite as

Phenotypic traits meet patterns of resource use in the radiation of “sharpfin” sailfin silverside fish in Lake Matano

  • Jobst Pfaender
  • Ulrich K. Schliewen
  • Fabian Herder


Disruptive natural selection on traits related to resource exploitation may lead to differential adaptation and finally to speciation. Trait utility, the performance of traits in terms of fitness, is a central criterion for the recognition of adaptive radiation. Utility of morphological structures involved in foraging can be detected by relating their variation to individual resource use. Here, we test for trophic adaptations in the radiation of “sharpfin” sailfin silversides (Atheriniformes: Telmatherinidae), endemic to ancient graben-lake Matano in central Sulawesi (Indonesia). This small species-flock is characterized by high phenotypic diversity, including traits most likely related to feeding ecology. Previous analyses suggest that species boundaries are porous, indicating very recent or possibly ongoing processes of species flock formation. To test for adaptation to resource use in this radiation, we compared morphological traits among trophic groups of individuals as identified by stomach content analyses. We analyzed variation in candidate structures or structural complexes commonly recognized as indicative of trophic adaptation in fish radiations, including shapes of body, oral and pharyngeal jaws, gill rakers and body size. We found fine-scaled morphological differentiation according to feeding habits, covering all traits analyzed. Fish-, shrimp- and egg-feeders were most distinct, with major axes of morphological variation fitting patterns of adaptation reported from other lacustrine fish radiations. Thus, the present results are consistent with fine-scaled morphological adaptation to resource use, supporting the adaptive character of the sharpfin sailfin silverside radiation.


Speciation Natural selection Malili Lakes system Geometric morphometrics Feeding apparatus Telmatherinidae 



We thank the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) fort the permit to conduct research in Indonesia. We are especially grateful to Renny K. Hadiaty (LIPI) for strongly supporting the project. PT. INCO provided outstanding logistic support in Sulawesi. For invaluable assistance in the field we thank Joachim G. Frommen, Renny K. Hadiaty, Julia Herder and Julia Schwarzer. Wolfgang Böhme and J. Wolfgang Wägele are acknowledged for supporting the project. Analyses and manuscript benefited from discussions, critical comments and constructive suggestions by Julia Schwarzer, Marcell Peters, Paul Alibert, Veijo Jormalainen and two anonymous reviewers. This study was funded by a research grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to U.K.S (DFG SCHL567/2).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jobst Pfaender
    • 1
  • Ulrich K. Schliewen
    • 2
  • Fabian Herder
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Sektion IchthyologieZoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander KoenigBonnGermany
  2. 2.Sektion IchthyologieZoologische Staatssammlung MünchenMunichGermany

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