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Musculoskeletal determinants of pelvic sucker function in hawaiian stream gobiid fishes: Interspecific comparisons and allometric scaling



Gobiid fishes possess a distinctive ventral sucker, formed from fusion of the pelvic fins. This sucker is used to adhere to a wide range of substrates including, in some species, the vertical cliffs of waterfalls that are climbed during upstream migrations. Previous studies of waterfall-climbing goby species have found that pressure differentials and adhesive forces generated by the sucker increase with positive allometry as fish grow in size, despite isometry or negative allometry of sucker area. To produce such scaling patterns for pressure differential and adhesive force, waterfall-climbing gobies might exhibit allometry for other muscular or skeletal components of the pelvic sucker that contribute to its adhesive function. In this study, we used anatomical dissections and modeling to evaluate the potential for allometric growth in the cross-sectional area, effective mechanical advantage (EMA), and force generating capacity of major protractor and retractor muscles of the pelvic sucker (m. protractor ischii and m. retractor ischii) that help to expand the sealed volume of the sucker to produce pressure differentials and adhesive force. We compared patterns for three Hawaiian gobiid species: a nonclimber (Stenogobius hawaiiensis), an ontogenetically limited climber (Awaous guamensis), and a proficient climber (Sicyopterus stimpsoni). Scaling patterns were relatively similar for all three species, typically exhibiting isometric or negatively allometric scaling for the muscles and lever systems examined. Although these scaling patterns do not help to explain the positive allometry of pressure differentials and adhesive force as climbing gobies grow, the best climber among the species we compared, S. stimpsoni, does exhibit the highest calculated estimates of EMA, muscular input force, and output force for pelvic sucker retraction at any body size, potentially facilitating its adhesive ability. J. Morphol. 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.