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Diet-induced phenotypic plasticity in European eel (Anguilla anguilla)
De Meyer, J.; Christiaens, J.; Adriaens, D. (2016). Diet-induced phenotypic plasticity in European eel (Anguilla anguilla). J. Exp. Biol. 219(3): 354-363.
In: Journal of Experimental Biology. Cambridge University Press: London. ISSN 0022-0949; e-ISSN 1477-9145, meer
Peer reviewed article  

Beschikbaar in  Auteurs 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 312230 [ OMA ]

Author keywords
    Dimorphism; Trophic plasticity; Elver eel stage; Feeding

Auteurs  Top 
  • De Meyer, J., meer
  • Christiaens, J., meer
  • Adriaens, D., meer

    Two phenotypes are present within the European eel population: broad-heads and narrow-heads. The expression of these phenotypes has been linked to several factors, such as diet and differential growth. The exact factors causing this dimorphism, however, are still unknown. In this study, we performed a feeding experiment on glass eels from the moment they start to feed. Eels were either fed a hard diet, which required biting and spinning behavior, or a soft diet, which required suction feeding. We found that the hard feeders develop a broader head and a larger adductor mandibulae region than eels that were fed a soft diet, implying that the hard feeders are capable of larger bite forces. Next to this, soft feeders develop a sharper and narrower head, which could reduce hydrodynamic drag, allowing more rapid strikes towards their prey. Both phenotypes were found in a control group, which were given a combination of both diets. These phenotypes were, however, not as extreme as the hard or the soft feeding group, indicating that some specimens are more likely to consume hard prey and others soft prey, but that they do not selectively eat one of both diets. In conclusion, we found that diet is a major factor influencing head shape in European eel and this ability to specialize in feeding on hard or soft prey could decrease intra-specific competition in European eel populations.

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