Morphometry of the stone loach, Barbatula barbatula: do mensural characters reflect the species’ life history thresholds?

  • Vladimír Kováč
  • Gordon H. Copp
  • Malcolm P. Francis
Part of the Developments in environmental biology of fishes book series (DEBF, volume 19)


Growth variability in 23 mensural characters was examined in 387 specimens of stone loath, Barbatula barbatula, from England. The standard length (SL) of the specimens ranged from 15.3 to 115.4 mm We tested the hypothesis that body proportions change abruptly, rather than gradually, at certain intervals of ontogeny by fitting linear, quadratic and split linear curves to plots of each variable against SL. Based on patterns of allometric growth, two groups and two subgroups of mensural characters have been found. Three characters were best explained by a linear regression, indicating isometric growth. Eight characters were best explained by a quadratic curve, indicating gradual allometry. The remaining 12 characters were best explained by a split regression, indicating mainly isometric growth with abrupt allometry occurring at a specific SL (breakpoint). The first shift in morphometric values (a transformation of the head; breakpoints in three characters) occurred at 26–35 mm SL, the second (a change in fin shape and size as well as body form; breakpoints in six characters) at 36–47 mm SL. The coincidence of shifts in body morphology with those in microhabitat use (between the respective size classes) suggests that thresholds (though not as sudden as those between embryo and early larva steps) do occur during this interval of stone loath life history. We suggest that the larva period ends with the completion of the first shift in relative growth (i.e. not later than at 35 mm SL, depending on individual variability), and that the second shift in morphometric values reflects a threshold between the first and the second step of juvenile period. The importance of changes in external morphology decreased as the fish grew bigger and older.

Key words

ecomorphology saltatory ontogeny larva-to-juvenile transition growth variability breakpoints in development of mensural characters 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vladimír Kováč
    • 1
  • Gordon H. Copp
    • 2
  • Malcolm P. Francis
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Natural Sciences, Institute of EcologyComenius UniversityBratislavaSlovakia
  2. 2.Landscape & Ecology Research Group, Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of HertfordshireHatfield, HertsUK
  3. 3.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric ResearchKilbirnie, WellingtonNew Zealand

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