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Waterfall-climbing fish use same mechanism to climb waterfalls and eat algae

Date:
January 4, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Going against the flow is always a challenge, but some waterfall-climbing fish have adapted to their extreme lifestyle by using the same set of muscles for both climbing and eating, according to new research.
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Representative lateral and ventral view still frames from high-speed video of (a) feeding and (b) climbing cycles of Sicyopterus stimpsoni. Panels are sequential from top to bottom for each behavior, with elapsed time through the cycle reported in lateral frames. Note in (b) that the fish climbs upwards (toward the top of each frame) as frames are viewed in order from top to bottom.
Credit: Cullen et al. Evolutionary Novelty versus Exaptation: Oral Kinematics in Feeding versus Climbing in the Waterfall-Climbing Hawaiian Goby Sicyopterus stimpsoni. PLoS ONE, 2013; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053274

Going against the flow is always a challenge, but some waterfall-climbing fish have adapted to their extreme lifestyle by using the same set of muscles for both climbing and eating, according to research published January 4 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Richard Blob and colleagues from Clemson University.

The Nopili rock-climbing goby is known to inch its way up waterfalls as tall as 100 meters by using a combination of two suckers; one of these is an oral sucker also used for feeding on algae. In this study, the researchers filmed jaw muscle movement in these fish while climbing and eating, and found that the overall movements were similar during both activities.

The researchers note that it is difficult to determine whether feeding movements were adapted for climbing, or vice versa with the current data, but the similarities are consistent with the idea that these fish have learned to use the same muscles to meet two very different needs of their unique lifestyle.

"We found it fascinating that this extreme behavior of these fish, climbing waterfalls with their mouth, might have been coopted through evolution from a more basic behavior like feeding. The first step in testing this was to measure whether the two behaviors really were as similar as they looked" says Blob, lead author on the study.


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Journal Reference:

  1. Joshua A. Cullen, Takashi Maie, Heiko L. Schoenfuss, Richard W. Blob. Evolutionary Novelty versus Exaptation: Oral Kinematics in Feeding versus Climbing in the Waterfall-Climbing Hawaiian Goby Sicyopterus stimpsoni. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e53274 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053274

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Public Library of Science. "Waterfall-climbing fish use same mechanism to climb waterfalls and eat algae." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104203850.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, January 4). Waterfall-climbing fish use same mechanism to climb waterfalls and eat algae. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104203850.htm
Public Library of Science. "Waterfall-climbing fish use same mechanism to climb waterfalls and eat algae." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104203850.htm (accessed July 5, 2015).

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