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Keywords:

  • diet;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • oranges potted sunfish

Abstract – Generalist fish species often exhibit two or more recognizable morphotypes specialized to exploit a particular habitat and niche. Divergent benthic and pelagic morphs of sunfish of the North American sunfish genus Lepomis have been found in some populations. The proximate cause of this phenomenon is not known. It could be differential survival and habitat segregation among different morphs produced by different genotypes within a species or it could be a phenotypically plastic response to environmental influences such as diet. I tested the hypothesis that variation in feeding morphology (body shape, gill raker and pharyngeal jaw morphology) in the orangespotted sunfish, Lepomis humilis occurs in response to diet. Fish were collected as young-of-the-year and were reared in individual aquaria and fed three differing arthropod diets. According to a multivariate analysis of covariance on principal components derived from body truss, gill raker and pharyngeal jaw measurements, diet significantly affected morphology. Fish that fed on a diet of mealworms developed a significantly more blunt snout based on a least squares means estimation of component values.