Intraspecific Morphological Variation in Two Common Marine Fish Species from South Africa

Eric Mattson, Mark C. Belk*
Department of Biology, 401 WIDB, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA 84602.

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© 2013 Mattson and Belk.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biology, 401 WIDB, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA 84602; Tel: 801-422-4154; Fax: 801-422-0090; Email:


Intraspecific morphological variation in fish is typically associated with sexual dimorphism, or one of three common environmental gradients: variation in intensity of predation, variation in water velocity, or variation in feeding niche. The preponderance of examples of environment-associated morphological variation within fish species has been documented in freshwater systems. It is not clear whether environment-associated intraspecific morphological variation is less common in marine fishes or whether there has just been a lack of investigation. We used geometric morphometric analysis to quantify shape variation in two species of South African marine fish commonly harvested for human consumption, Pterogymnus laniarius (panga), and Argyrosomus inodorus (silver kob). Neither species exhibited significant sexual dimorphism, but both species exhibited significant intraspecific morphological variation. This variation appears consistent with patterns expected from variation along the benthic-pelagic feeding niche continuum.

Keywords: Argyrosomus inodorus, feeding niche, geometric morphometrics, intraspecific variation, marine fish, morphology, Pterogymnus laniarius.