Variation in neuromuscular activity during prey capture by trophic specialists and generalists (Pisces: Labridae)

Brain Behav Evol. 1988;32(5):257-68. doi: 10.1159/000116554.


Members of the marine teleost family Labridae are among the most abundant and morphologically diverse fish on coral reefs. A quantitative analysis was conducted of the neuromuscular activity patterns controlling movement of the jaws during prey capture by 4 labrid species ranging from trophic specialists to trophic generalists. A total of more than 800 captures of 3 prey types was analyzed. All 4 species showed significant modulation of electromyographic parameters in response to different prey types. Significant variation was also found between replicate experiments on the same individuals. To obtain valid assessments of interspecific variability, statistical analyses must take into account this potentially high degree of intraspecific variability. By partitioning the variance in a nested analysis of variance, a lack of significant differences in electromyographic parameters between species became apparent. In contrast to the closely related Cichlidae, trophic diversification in the Labridae has not been accompanied by the acquisition of unique neuromuscular activity patterns for prey capture. The dramatic adaptive radiation that has occurred in these 2 families has involved different processes of evolutionary diversification. Neuromuscular stereotypy of labrids may be associated with the lack of structural flexibility in their 'coupled jaw'. Additional study is needed to establish the extent to which labrid radiation into various trophic niches is related to the evolution of specialized morphologies and foraging behaviors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Electromyography*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Masticatory Muscles / innervation*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology*
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Species Specificity*