Ecomorphological relationships among Caribbean tetraodontiform fishes


  • Ralph G. Turingan

    1. Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, PR 00681, USA
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      Ralph G. Turingan, Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306–3050, USA


The anatomy of the oral jaw apparatus, lever-arm mechanics and the diet of six species of Caribbean fishes in the order Tetraodontiformes were investigated to explore the relationships between trophic morphology and feeding habit in these fishes. Tetraodontiforms use their oral jaw apparatus to capture and reduce a broad range of prey types such as plankton, polychaete worms, holothuroids, sea urchins, crabs, molluscs, gorgonians and algae. The different feeding habits of tetraodontiforms are reflected by differences in the morphological and biomechanical features of their oral jaw apparatus that appear to enhance their abilities to feed on hard prey organisms. Species that bite and crush hard, benthic prey organisms had more massive bones and muscles, longer jaw-opening in-levers, and higher jaw-closing lever ratios than the planktivorous, suction-feeding species. Masses of the jaw and suspensorium bones and lower jaw adductor muscles as well as the jaw-opening in-levers and jaw-closing lever ratios of crushers were greater than those of biters. In contrast, the mass of the adductor muscle of the upper jaw did not vary among species with different diets, indicating that this muscle may not be central to the factors that determine patterns of prey use in these fishes. The diversity of feeding behaviours and the wide range of feeding habits among fishes in the order Tetraodontiformes illustrate the versatility of the oral jaw apparatus as a single functional feeding system in fishes.