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Santa Cruz, CA

Vikram Baliga, PhD Candidate at UC Santa Cruz, member of the Mehta Lab. Areas of study: ecology, ontogeny, morphometrics, and comparative methods.


New Publication on Feeding Kinematics of Cleaner Wrasses

Vikram Baliga

I am very pleased to announce that Rita Mehta and I have a new article in Journal of Morphology, now available via online Early View. The full title is "Linking cranial morphology to prey capture kinematics in three cleaner wrasses: Labroides dimidiatus, Larabicus quadrilineatus, and Thalassoma lutescens", and it is available here.

This study is part of my dissertation research. Here, we used high-speed videography (at 1000 frames/sec) to capture the feeding behaviors of three species of cleaner wrasses in two feeding treatments. One treatment involved euthanizing and then suspending potential client fishes into the water column. The other treatment involved threading defrosted bloodworms and mysis shrimp onto a wire mesh. In both treatments, we recorded lateral views of the feeding events to reveal the timings and magnitudes of jaw movement.

We found that these labrids perform low-displacement, fast jaw movements, which allow for rapid gape cycles on individually targeted items. This sheds light on how ectoparasite prey capture (cleaning!) occurs in these species. We then use these results to argue that cleaners could be considered to be "pickers", similar to cyprinodontiforms (*), but also that picking behavior may be more kinematically more diverse than previously thought.

This is the first of what I hope will be several publications on the feeding behaviors of cleaner wrasses. Next, I'd like to sample more broadly along the labrid family tree to see how well the kinematic findings in the present paper generalize across other evolutions of cleaning in this group. Stay tuned!