Resource partitioning and ecomorphological variation in two syntopic species of Lebiasinidae (Characiformes) in an Amazonian stream
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Resource partitioning is important for species coexistence. Species with similar ecomorphology are potential competitors, especially when phylogenetically close, due to niche conservatism. The aim of this study was to investigate the resource partitioning among populations of two species of lebiasinids (Copella nigrofasciata and Pyrrhulina aff. brevis) that co-occur in a first-order Amazonian stream, analyzing the trophic ecology, feeding strategies and ecomorphological attributes related to the use of food and space by these species. Fish were captured in May and September 2010. The stomach contents of 60 individuals were analyzed and quantified volumetrically to characterize the feeding ecology of both species. Eleven morphological attributes were measured in 20 specimens and combined in nine ecomorphological indices. Both species had an omnivorous-invertivorous diet and consumed predominantly allochthonous items. Both showed a tendency to a generalist diet, but intrapopulational variation in resource use was also detected. Overall feeding niche overlap was high, but differed between seasons: low during the rainy season and high in the dry season. In the latter, the food niche overlap was asymmetric because C. nigrofasciata consumed several prey of P. aff. brevis, which reduced its food spectrum. The ecomorphological analysis suggests that C. nigrofasciata has greater swimming capacity (greater relative length of caudal peduncle) than P. aff. brevis, which has greater maneuverability and tendency to inhabit lentic environments (greater relative depth of the body). Our results demonstrate that these species have similar trophic ecology and suggest a spatial segregation, given by morphological differences related to locomotion and occupation of habitat, favoring their coexistence.
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