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Morphological and swim performance variation among reproductive tactics of bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus)

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Ecomorphology examines the relationship between morphology and ecological characteristics often in relation to foraging, predation, and habitat use. However, ecomorphology may also be linked to reproductive behaviour (“tactic”), but few studies have examined this relationship. We examined bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque, 1819), a species in which some males become “parentals” while others adopt a parasitic “cuckolder” tactic. Parentals build nests, court females, and care for the young. Cuckolders instead act as “sneakers”, darting into nests while females are releasing eggs, and then transition to “satellites”, mimicking female appearance. We predicted that reproductive tactic would be associated with morphological variation and swimming performance. We collected bluegill parentals, sneakers, satellites, females, and juveniles to compare morphology, burst swim, and swim endurance. We found significant morphological variation among the groups, with only satellites and females having similar body shapes. Interestingly, satellites did not overlap in shape with sneakers, despite representing a single ontogenetic life history, providing evidence for a relationship between reproductive tactic and morphology. We also found that swim performance varied among the groups, with sneakers having the fastest burst swim and longest swim endurance. Our results indicate that reproductive tactic is an important factor in the ecomorphology of fish.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC H3C 3P8, Canada. 2: Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B7, Canada.

Publication date: October 19, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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