Feeding ecology and ecomorphology of cichlid assemblages in a large Mesoamerican river delta
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2018, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature. Fish assemblages in tropical lowland rivers are characterized by a high richness of species that feed on a diverse array of food resources. Although closely related species often have similar feeding ecology, species within the family Cichlidae display a broad spectrum of trophic niches, and resource partitioning has been inferred from studies conducted in Neotropical rivers. We investigated interspecific variation in food resource use and its relationship to morphological variation among cichlid fishes within the Pantanos de Centla Biosphere Reserve, a coastal area encompassing the delta of the Grijalva-Usumacinta River in Tabasco, Mexico. Most species consumed benthic crustaceans, aquatic insect larvae, and detritus, but some were more herbivorous, and one species was a specialized piscivore. Dietary niche overlap among species was higher than expected for one assemblage, and similar to random expectations for another, suggesting a lesser role for resource partitioning than has been shown for some cichlid assemblages, perhaps due to availability of abundant resources, even in low-water conditions. Canonical correspondence analysis revealed that greatest morphological differences am7ong species involved functional traits directly associated with resource use. Relationships between feeding ecology and morphology were similar to those described for other riverine cichlids. Strong ecomorphological relationships facilitate inferences about the ecology of cichlid species, including species that currently lack data from field studies. Knowledge of ecological relationships will be important for conservation in the Pantanos de Centla, an ecosystem of global significance for biodiversity and ecosystem services.