Predicting ecological and phenotypic differentiation in the wild: A case of piscivorous fish in a fishless environment

Ryan A. Martin, Matthew D. Mcgee, R. Brian Langerhans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental variation drives ecological and phenotypic change. How predictable is differentiation in response to environmental change? Answering this question requires the development and testing of multifarious a priori predictions in natural systems. We employ this approach using Gobiomorus dormitor populations that have colonized inland blue holes differing in the availability of fish prey. We evaluated predictions of differences in demographics, habitat use, diet, locomotor and trophic morphology, and feeding kinematics and performance between G.dormitor populations inhabiting blue holes with and without fish prey. Populations of G.dormitor independently diverged between prey regimes, with broad agreement between observed differences and a priori predictions. For example, in populations lacking fish prey, we observed male-biased sex ratios, a greater use of shallow-water habitat, and larger population diet breadths as a result of greater individual diet specialization. Furthermore, we found predictable differences in body shape, mouth morphology, suction generation capacity, strike kinematics, and feeding performance on different prey types, consistent with the adaptation of G.dormitor to piscivory when coexisting with fish prey and to feeding on small invertebrates in their absence. The results of the present study suggest great potential in our ability to predict population responses to changing environments, which is an increasingly important capability in a human-dominated, ever-changing world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-607
Number of pages20
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Feeding performance
  • Functional morphology
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Individual diet specialization

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