Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview

Introduction Comparative studies of brain anatomy between closely related species have been very useful in demonstrating selective changes in brain structure. Within-species comparisons can be particularly useful for identifying changes in brain structure caused by contrasting environmental selection pressures. Here, we aimed to understand whether differences within and between species in habitat use and foraging behaviour influence brain morphology, on both ecological and evolutionary time scales. Methods We used as a study model three species of the Elacatinus genus that differ in their habitat-foraging mode. The obligatory cleaning goby Elacatinus evelynae inhabits mainly corals and feeds mostly on ectoparasites removed from larger fish during cleaning interactions. In contrast, the obligatory sponge-dwelling goby Elacatinus chancei inhabits tubular sponges and feeds on microinvertebrates buried in the sponges’ tissues. Finally, in the facultatively cleaning goby Elacatinus prochilos, individuals can adopt either phenotype, the cleaning or the sponge-dwelling habitat-foraging mode. By comparing the brains of the facultative goby phenotypes to the brains of the obligatory species we can test whether brain morphology is better predicted by phylogenetic relatedness or the habitat-foraging modes (cleaning x sponge-dwelling). Results We found that E. prochilos brains from both types (cleaning and sponge-dwelling) were highly similar to each other. Their brains were in general more similar to the brains of the most closely related species, E. evelynae (obligatory cleaning species), than to the brains of E. chancei (sponge-dwelling species). In contrast, we found significant brain structure differences between the cleaning species (E. evelynae and E. prochilos) and the sponge-dwelling species (E. chancei). These differences revealed independent changes in functionally correlated brain areas that might be ecologically adaptive. E. evelynae and E. prochilos had a relatively larger visual input processing brain axis and a relatively smaller lateral line input processing brain axis than E. chancei. Conclusion The similar brain morphology of the two types of E. prochilos corroborates other studies showing that individuals of both types can be highly plastic in their social and foraging behaviours. Our results in the Elacatinus species suggest that morphological adaptations of the brain are likely to be found in specialists whereas species that are more flexible in their habitat may only show behavioral plasticity without showing anatomical differences.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.