Sara Kast


Does phylogenetic conservatism obscure the trophic ecology of Austrolethops wardi Whitley, 1935 (Teleostei: Gobiidae)

MSc Student
Advisor: Harald Ahnelt

Unit for Theoretical Biology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
University of Vienna


The small-eyed goby Austrolethops wardi (Gobiidae) is widely distributed in Indo-Pacific seagrass beds, living as a commensal in the burrows of the thalassinidean shrimp Neaxius acanthus (Strahlaxiidae). Contrary to other shrimp-associated gobies A. wardi does not leave the burrow. Gut content analysis as well as stable isotope analysis showed that A. wardi is an herbivore which consumes seagrass brought into the burrow by the shrimp. Surprisingly, the gut resembles those of carnivorous gobies in length and morphology. Therefore, it is assumed that A. wardi possibly shows a tendency to conserve ancestral trophic characters. To test this assumption trophic structures directly involved in food intake and in food processing like the jaws, teeth and gill rakers will be investigated in this study in comparison with sympatric occurring gobies from different ecological guilds.