AboutZoos, Since 2008


Hawai­ian waterfall-​climbing fish use same mus­cles to climb and feed

pub­lished 09 Jan­u­ary 2013 | mod­i­fied 09 Jan­u­ary 2013
Hawaii Akaka FallsGoing 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 (Sicy­opterus stimp­soni) 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 learnt to use the same mus­cles to meet two very dif­fer­ent needs of their unique lifestyle.

Footage of climb­ing abil­i­ties of the goby (source: Live­Science)

We found it fas­ci­nat­ing that this extreme behav­iour of these fish, climb­ing water­falls with their mouth, might have been coopted through evo­lu­tion from a more basic behav­iour like feed­ing. The first step in test­ing this was to mea­sure whether the two behav­iours really were as sim­i­lar as they looked.
(Richard Blob, lead author, Clem­son Uni­ver­sity)

(Source: PLoS One, 04.01.2013)
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