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J Fish Biol. 2014 Jun;84(6):1689-707. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12385. Epub 2014 Apr 30.

Suction among pickers: jaw mechanics, dietary breadth and feeding behaviour in beach-spawning Leuresthes spp. compared with their relatives.

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Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton, CA, 92831, U.S.A.


Jaw mechanics and dietary breadth in California grunion Leuresthes tenuis and Gulf grunion Leuresthes sardina were compared with three other members of the tribe Atherinopsini to test whether these two species have evolved a novel jaw protrusion that might be associated with feeding narrowly on abundant prey near spawning beaches. Quantitative comparison of cleared-and-stained specimens of five members of the atherinopsine clade showed that, compared with false grunion Colpichthys regis, topsmelt Atherinops affinis and jacksmelt Atherinopsis californiensis, L. tenuis and L. sardina have longer, more downwardly directed premaxillary protrusion, expanded dentary and premaxillary bones, greater lower jaw rotation and larger premaxilla-vomer separation. Leuresthes tenuis showed greater differences than L. sardina in these features. Comparison of the gut contents of L. tenuis and A. affinis with zooplankton samples collected simultaneously with these fishes in the water column within 1‚ÄČkm of shore showed that, as predicted, L. tenuis fed predominantly on mysid crustaceans and had a narrower diet than A. affinis. High-speed video analysis showed that L. tenuis exhibits a mean time to maximum jaw protrusion c. 2.5 times shorter than that of A. affinis. The grunion sister species, especially L. tenuis, have evolved suction feeding that may allow efficient feeding on common, evasive prey near spawning sites. The morphological traits seen in both species of Leuresthes signify a marked difference from their closest relatives in prey capture and suggest a type of jaw protrusion not yet seen in cyprinodontiforms or perciforms.


Atherinopsini; New World silverside; ecomorphology; gut contents; high-speed video; jaw protrusion

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