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Resource partitioning by Lake Tana barbs predicted from fish morphometrics and prey characteristics

Abstract

We develop a food-fish model (FFM), whichquantitatively relates properties of aquaticfood types (size, shape, escape velocity,habitat, mechanical properties and chemicalquality) to feeding structures of cyprinidfish. The model is based on functionalmorphology and experiments on search, capture,selection, and internal processing of food byfish. The FFM shows which food properties aremost critical in feeding and how fish canoptimise coping with them. Relative food sizeimposes the highest demands, followed by preyvelocity, food habitat and mechanicalproperties. These overrule taxonomic affinitiesof food types. Highly demanding food types(large, fast prey, suspensions of plankton,benthic prey and mechanically tough items)impose incompatible morphological requirementson fish. We apply the FFM to the endemic Barbus species flock of Lake Tana (Ethiopia),since the structural diversity of its 14species reflects recent adaptations to trophicniches. We predict their potentials inutilising different food types by quantitativecomparisons of 35 parameters, measured for eachspecies, with the values for each foodspecialist derived from the FFM. These dietpredictions are tested against gut contentsfrom 4,711 fish, sampled over seasons andhabitats. Gut contents and predictions show agood overall fit. The value of the model isshown by its resolution in predicting resourcepartitioning among the barbs. For the 14 barbsa trophic hierarchy with six major trophicgroups is reconstructed which closely matchesthe predictions. Trophic specialists (> 65%by volume of a single food type) are alsostructurally specialised, whereas less extremeanatomical structures characterise trophicgeneralists, allowing them to switch betweenfeeding modes. Trophic generalists are bestdefined by behavioral flexibility, sincefeeding modes integrate both fish and foodcharacters. The FFM is of practical use inevaluating the role of morphological diversityin an ecosystem and enables the analysis oftrophic interactions in fish communities and ofthe cascading effects by environmental change.Such an approach can be instrumental in thedevelopment of management strategies forfisheries and in conservation of biodiversity.

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Sibbing, F.A., Nagelkerke, L.A. Resource partitioning by Lake Tana barbs predicted from fish morphometrics and prey characteristics. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 10, 393–437 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1012270422092

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1012270422092

  • Barbus
  • cyprinids
  • ecomorphology
  • feeding mechanisms
  • food properties
  • functional morphology