Where Am I? Niche constraints due to morphological specialization in two Tanganyikan cichlid fish species

By Widmer, Lukas & Adrian Indermaur, Bernd Egger, Walter Salzburger

Ecology and Evolution, v. 2020(n. 00), pp. 1-9 12-Aug-2020. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6629


" Food resource specialization within novel environments is considered a common axis of diversification in adaptive radiations. Feeding specializations are often coupled with striking morphological adaptations and exemplify the relation between morphology and diet (phenotype–environment correlations), as seen in, for example, Darwin finches, Hawaiian spiders, and the cichlid fish radiations in East African lakes. The cichlids' potential to rapidly exploit and occupy a variety of different habitats has previously been attributed to the variability and adaptability of their trophic structures including the pharyngeal jaw apparatus. Here we report a reciprocal transplant experiment designed to explore the adaptability of the trophic structures in highly specialized cichlid fish species. More specifically, we forced two common but ecologically distinct cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika, Tropheus moorii (rock‐dweller), and Xenotilapia boulengeri (sand‐dweller), to live on their preferred as well as on an unpreferred habitat (sand and rock, respectively). We measured their overall performance on the different habitat types and explored whether adaptive phenotypic plasticity is involved in adaptation. We found that, while habitat had no effect on the performance of X. boulengeri, T. moorii performed significantly better in its preferred habitat. Despite an experimental duration of several months, we did not find a shift in the morphology of the lower pharyngeal jaw bone that would be indicative of adaptive phenotypic plasticity in this trait "

Classification: Behavior, Lake Tanganyika.

Language: English

Widmer, Lukas & Adrian Indermaur, Bernd Egger, Walter Salzburger. 2020. "Where Am I? Niche constraints due to morphological specialization in two Tanganyikan cichlid fish species". Ecology and Evolution. v. 2020(n. 00), pp. 1-9. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6629 (crc09831) (abstract)