To feed or to breed: morphological constraints of mouthbrooding in coral reef cardinalfishes.

Andrew Hoey, David R. Bellwood, Adam M. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Functionally coupled biomechanical systems are widespread in nature and are viewed as major constraints on evolutionary diversification, yet there have been few attempts to explore the implications of performing multiple functions within a single anatomical structure. Paternally mouthbrooding cardinalfishes present an ideal system to investigate the constraints of functional coupling as the oral jaws of male fishes are directly responsible for both feeding and reproductive functions. To test the effects of (i) mouthbrooding on feeding and (ii) feeding on reproductive potential we compared the feeding apparatus between sexes of nine species of cardinalfish and compared brood characteristics among species from different trophic groups, respectively. Mouthbrooding was strongly associated with the morphology of the feeding apparatus in males. Male cardinalfishes possessed longer heads, snouts and jaws than female conspecifics irrespective of body size, trophic group or evolutionary history. Conversely, reproductive potential also appeared to be related to trophic morphology. Piscivorous cardinalfishes produced larger, but fewer eggs, and had smaller brood volumes than species from the two invertebrate feeding groups. These interrelationships suggest that feeding and reproduction in the mouth of cardinalfishes may be tightly coupled. If so this may, in part, have contributed to the limited morphological diversification exhibited by cardinalfishes.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2426-2432
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1737
StatePublished - Feb 8 2012

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank M. Depczynski and F. Merida for field assistance; the staff of the Lizard Island Research Station for logistical support; and C. Fulton, J. Hoey, M. Hoogenboom and N. Konow for helpful discussions. Comments from two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript. Financial support was provided by the Australian Research Council. James Cook University animal experimentation ethics approval no. A650.


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