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Keywords:

  • Gulf of California – head shape – phylogenetic morphometrics – reef fishes – trophic niche

Pomacentridae are one of the most abundant fish families inhabiting reefs of tropical and temperate regions. This family, comprising 29 genera, shows a remarkable diversity of habitat preferences, feeding, and behaviours. Twenty-four species belonging to seven genera have been reported in the Eastern Pacific region. The present study focuses on the relationship between the diet and the cephalic profile in the 24 endemic damselfishes of this region. Feeding habits were determined by means of underwater observations and the gathering of bibliographic data. Variations in cephalic profile were analyzed by means of geometric morphometrics and phylogenetic methods. The present study shows that the 24 species can be grouped into three main trophic guilds: zooplanktivores, algivores, and an intermediate group feeding on small pelagic and benthic preys. Shape variations were low within each genus except for Abudefduf. Phylogenetically adjusted regression reveals that head shape can be explained by differences in feeding habits. The morphometric phylogeny recovered the subfamily Stegastinae and the relationship between Abudefduf troschelii and Chromis species. The cephalic profile of damselfishes contains a clear and strong phylogenetic signal. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 102, 593–613.