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J Evol Biol. 2007 Jan;20(1):70-8.

Feeding with speed: prey capture evolution in cichilds.

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Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


The diversity of both the locomotor and feeding systems in fish is extensive, although little is known about the integrated evolution of the two systems. Virtually, all fish swim to ingest prey and all open their buccal cavity during prey capture, but the relationship between these two ubiquitous components of fish feeding strikes is unknown. We predicted that there should be a positive correlation between ram speed (RS) and maximum gape (MG) because the accuracy of a predatory strike goes down with an increase in RS and fish with larger mouths eat larger, more evasive prey. For 18 species of neotropical cichlids, we used phylogenetic-independent contrasts to study the relationship between the predator closing speed (RS) and mouth size (MG) during prey capture. To provide a robust comparative framework, we augmented existing phylogenetic information available from the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene with sequences from the S7 nuclear ribosomal intron for these species. Then, we captured high-speed (500 images per second), lateral view feeding sequences of each species by using a digital video camera and measured both RS and MG. Uncorrected species values of MG and RS were positively and significantly correlated. When accounting for any of the set of phylogenetic relationships recovered, the independent contrasts of RS and MG remained significantly, and positively, correlated. This tight evolutionary coupling highlights what is likely a common relationship between locomotor behaviour and feeding kinematics in many organisms.

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