Does morphology predict trophic niche differentiation? Relationship between feeding habits and body shape in four co-occurring juvenile species
I’m very glad to co-author this paper with colleague Daniele, and others, from La Sapienza university, in Roma:
Ventura, D., Bonhomme, V., Colangelo, P., Bonifazi, A., Jona Lasinio, G., Ardizzone, G. in Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
You can read the paper there. Please contact me if you want a copy. The abstract follows.
Feeding habits, diet overlap and morphological correlates of four juvenile species of the genus Diplodus were investigated during their settlement periods, along the Tyrrhenian coast. Stomach content analysis showed that the diets of D. sargus and D. puntazzo mainly comprised benthic prey such as harpacticoid copepods, amphipods and polychaetes. On the other hand, D. vulgaris and D. annularis fed mainly on planktonic prey such as ciclopoids, calanoids copepods and fish larvae. A biologically significant diet overlap, calculated using the Schoener index, was recorded between D. sargus and D. puntazzo and between D. vulgaris and D. annularis. Morphological characters related to feeding such as gape height and gut length with their relative growth patterns suggested that different trophic preferences have led to a morphological diversification of feeding structures. Therefore, a geometric morphometric outline method, namely Elliptic Fourier Analysis (EFA) was used to examine shape modification of the head and body regions. The multivariate analyses performed on shape descriptors demonstrated that the four species were morphologically distinct due to different feeding habits: the two species which feed mainly on benthic prey presented a discoidal shape, with broad profiles and rounded head; by contrast, the other two species which relied mostly on planktonic prey, presented a streamlined and more elongated body shape.