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Florida Scientist


The relationship between oral jaw biomechanics and consumption of hard prey was compared between Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) and Atlantic Ocean (Atlantic) populations of gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) to examine intraspecific ecomorphological variation between these fish. Gut content analysis revealed that Atlantic fish fed more on hard-shelled invertebrates, such as crabs and sea urchins, than Gulf conspecifics. Difference in the relative magnitude of durophagy between Gulf and Atlantic triggerfish was associated with intraspecific differences in key biomechanical properties of the prey-capture and processing mechanism. The more durophagous Atlantic B. capriscus had more massive jaw bones and muscles than Gulf fish. The mechanical advantage of the lower jaw appeared to be less reflective of the dietary differences between fish from both locations. We hypothesize that B. capriscus has the ability to alter the development of its feeding mechanism to match the requirements for capturing and processing locally available prey-resources at post-recruitment habitats in the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida.

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