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Naturwissenschaften. 2008 Dec;95(12):1175-80. doi: 10.1007/s00114-008-0439-z. Epub 2008 Aug 19.

Divergent evolution of feeding substrate preferences in a phylogenetically young species flock of pupfish (Cyprinodon spp.).

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Biozentrum Grindel and Zoological Museum, Universit├Ąt Hamburg, Martin-Luther-King Platz 3, 20146, Hamburg, Germany.


A fundamental question in sympatric speciation is how trophic divergence is achieved. We used an extremely young (<8,000 years) species flock of pupfish (Cyprinodon spp.) from Laguna Chichancanab in south-eastern Mexico to examine divergent evolution of preferences for different feeding substrates. In a test aquarium, we presented four feeding substrates (sand, gravel, a plastic plant, and blank bottom), but no actual food was offered. The four feeding substrates were chosen to mirror the most common substrate types in Laguna Chichancanab. Previous studies demonstrated that benthic food items prevail in the diet of most Cyprinodon species. C. beltrani preferred sand, whereas C. labiosus preferred gravel. F(1) hybrids of both species showed intermediate preferences. C. maya searched for food equally at all substrates. As the test fish were reared under identical laboratory conditions (i.e., in the absence of feeding substrates), the species-specific preferences appear to be genetically fixed, suggesting rapid divergent evolution of feeding behaviors.

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