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Data from: Specialized specialists and the narrow niche fallacy: a tale of scale-feeding fishes


Kolmann, Matthew A.; Huie, Jonathan M.; Evans, Kory; Summers, Adam P. (2017), Data from: Specialized specialists and the narrow niche fallacy: a tale of scale-feeding fishes, Dryad, Dataset,


Although rare within the context of 30,000 species of extant fishes, scale-feeding as an ecological strategy has evolved repeatedly across the teleost tree of life. Scale-feeding (lepidophagous) fishes are diverse in terms of their ecology, behavior, and specialized morphologies for grazing on scales and mucus of sympatric species. Despite this diversity, the underlying ontogenetic changes in functional and biomechanical properties of associated feeding morphologies in lepidophagous fishes are less understood. We examined the ontogeny of feeding mechanics in two evolutionary lineages of scale-feeding fishes: Roeboides, a characin, and Catoprion, a piranha. We compare these two scale-feeding taxa to their nearest, non-lepidophagous taxa to identify traits held in common among scale-feeding fishes. We use a combination of micro-computed tomography scanning and iodine staining to measure biomechanical predictors of feeding behavior such as tooth shape, jaw lever mechanics, and jaw musculature. We recover a stark contrast between the feeding morphology of scale-feeding and non-scale-feeding taxa, with lepidophagous fishes displaying some paedomorphic characters through to adulthood. Few traits are shared between lepidophagous characins and piranhas, except for their highly-modified, stout dentition. Given such variability in development, morphology, and behavior, ecological diversity within lepidophagous fishes has been underestimated.

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South America