Ontogeny of Feeding-Ecological Morphology in the Sympatric Sunfishes, Lepomis macrochirus and Lepomis microlophus
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Sympatric species maintain divergent food habits (feeding ecology) in order to release each other from competing for limited food resources (1, 2). Two congeners coexist in North American lakes: suction-feeding bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus feeds primarily on soft, elusive, and planktonic prey whereas durophagous redear, Lepomis microlophus eats hard-shelled invertebrates such as clams (1, 2). Is ecological divergence consistent with functional or biomechanical divergence in these sympatric fishes? This study compares growth trajectories of feeding biomechanics that underlie feeding performance in sympatric Florida sunfishes with the dietary prey items.