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Body shape variation in relation to resource partitioning within cichlid trophic guilds coexisting along the rocky shore of Lake Malawi

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To appreciate better how cichlids segregate along the trophic, spatial and temporal dimensions, it is necessary to understand the cichlids' body design, and its role in resource partitioning. We investigated body shape variation, quantified using landmark-based geometric morphometrics, among cichlid species belonging to algal and zooplankton feeders coexisting along the rocky shores of Lake Malawi, in order to elucidate the adaptive significance of body shape. Significant differences were found within zooplankton feeders in which Copadichromis borleyi had a shorter gape, smaller eyes and shorter caudal peduncle relative to Ctenopharynx pictus and, within algal feeders, Labeotropheus fuelleborni had a shorter and inferior subterminal gape, and shorter head relative to Petrotilapia genalutea. Variation among species is discussed with reference to trophic and feeding microhabitat differentiation which enables us to appreciate the role of body shape in enhancing ecological separation, and thus leads to coexistence among cichlid species.


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