Relationship between body shape and trophic niche segregation in two closely related sympatric fishes

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Diet, shape and their covariation were analysed in juvenile flounder Platichthys flesus and plaice Pleuronectes platessa specimens from a tidal inshore habitat (Dublin Bay) in the Irish Sea. Stomach content analysis revealed differences in the diet, suggesting a substantial degree of resource partitioning between the species. Geometric morphometrics detected significant and discriminating differences in body shape, particularly in the head region. Most interestingly, a high degree of correlation was detected between diet and shape. The ontogenetic and ecological implications of the diet and shape covariation pattern were discussed, suggesting that morphological differences, in particular in the head region, may represent the functional platform which allows for the existence of ecologically significant differences in prey search and capture between P. platessa and P. flesus.

Keywords: Irish Sea; feeding ecology; flatfishes; geometric morphometrics; nursery habitat; resource partitioning

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of Experimental Ecology and Aquaculture, Department Biology, University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’, Via della Ricerca Scientifica, 00133 Rome, Italy 2: Marine Biodiversity, Ecology & Evolution, UCD School of Biology & Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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