• Keast, Allen
  • Webb, Deirdre


In 14 cohabiting fish species in a small freshwater lake, mouth and body structures combine with food specializations and habitat preferences to greatly restrict interspecific competition within the fauna.The species differ quantitatively in a large number of structures and, individually and in combination, these are clearly adapted for distinctive roles. The mouth is particularly plastic, varying in position, in aperture width, and in overall form, with structures as diverse as a scoop, a beak, and a tube being found. Six basic body types occur and these, combined with varying fin morphologies, result in a range of distinctive forms, including the following. Micropterus salmoides, with a compressed fusiform body and a wide mouth, is a strong-swimming, widely ranging piscivore. Notemigonus crysopterus, with a long, slender caudal peduncle, subfalcate pectoral fins, and a deeply forked caudal fin, has great maneuverability that permits it to catch individual zooplankters. Lepomis macrochirus is a "sedentary," gibbose-bodied water-hanger. Umbra limi has a stubby, cylindrical body that favours life in dense vegetation. Labidesthes sicculus, with an almost straight dorsal line to the body, a low dorsal fin, and a beak-like snout with tweezer-like teeth, is modified for surface feeding and leaping out of the water. Ictalurus nebulosus has chemotactile barbels that favour bottom feeding and paired fins that function partly as hydrofoils, keeping the body inclined downwards as the mouth sweeps the bottom.The structural specializations give their owners a decided ecological advantage in certain situations. Only a few species, however, are limited by them to restricted ways of life. In most cases, a considerable measure of feeding flexibility is retained, presumably important for survival in cold temperate lakes.