Document Type


Date of Original Version



Biological Sciences


The adaptive radiations of African cichlids resulted in a diversity of feeding morphologies and strategies, but the role of sensory biology in prey detection and feeding ecology remains largely unexplored. Two endemic Lake Malawi cichlid genera, Tramitichromis and Aulonocara, feed on benthic invertebrates, but differ in lateral line morphology (narrow and widened lateral line canals, respectively) and foraging strategy. The hypothesis that they use their lateral line systems differently was tested by looking at the relative contribution of the lateral line system and vision in prey detection by Tramitichromis sp. and comparing results to those from a complementary study using Aulonocara stuartgranti (Schwalbe et al., 2012). First, behavioral trials were used to assess the ability of Tramitichromis sp. to detect live (mobile) and dead (immobile) benthic prey under light and dark conditions. Second, trials were run before, immediately after, and several weeks after chemical ablation of the lateral line system to determine its role in feeding behavior. Results show that Tramitichromis sp. is a visual predator that neither locates prey in the dark nor depends on lateral line input for prey detection and is thus distinct from A. stuartgranti, which uses its lateral line or a combination of vision and lateral line to detect prey depending on light condition. Investigating how functionally distinctive differences in sensory morphology are correlated with feeding behavior in the laboratory and determining the role of sensory systems in feeding ecology will provide insights into how sensory capabilities may contribute to trophic niche segregation.