Authors
  • Colborne, Scott F.

Summary

The foraging ecology of fish is often considered to be the primary determinant of body shape due to tight links between morphology, swimming performance, and foraging efficiency. Fish foraging on littoral benthic macroinvertebrates typically have a deeper body shape than those foraging on pelagic zooplankton in the water column. However, morphological traits often have multiple ecological functions, which could result in performance trade-offs between functions. Here, we provide the first examination of body shape and diet in a species with alternative reproductive tactics, in this case, bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque, 1819). Bluegill males mature into either “parental” or “cuckolder” reproductive tactics. Parentals build nests and provide sole parental care and defense of the young. Cuckolders instead act as “sneakers” darting into the nests of parental males while mating is occurring and then later in life become “satellites,” mimicking female appearance and behavior. Using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis of diet, we found that parentals and females consumed primarily pelagic zooplankton yet were the deepest in body shape. Sneakers consumed more littoral resources but were the most streamlined. Satellite males also consumed predominately littoral resources but had a deeper body form that was more similar to females than to size-matched juveniles. Our results differ from past studies of foraging ecomorphology and suggest that other selection pressures, such as sexual selection in species with alternative reproductive tactics, may also be an important factor influencing shape.

Methodology

Fish Collection: daily snorkel surveys of the littoral habitat to collect 102 bluegill using dip nets; sampling began on the first day parental males began to form colonies and continued until the first day after spawning had occurred. An additional 40 fish were collected from multiple locations in Lake Opinicon by angling with a small piece of earthworm.

Location