Competition for food drives divergence and specialization in feeding morphology. Stomatopod crustaceans have two kinds of highly specialized feeding appendages: either elongate spear-like appendages (spearers) used to ambush soft-bodied evasive prey or hammer-like appendages (smashers) that produce extremely high forces used both to break hard-shelled prey and to capture evasive prey. To evaluate associations between appendage type and feeding ecology, the diet of two small smasher and spearer species (size range: 21–27 mm) that co-occur were compared. Stable isotope analysis and the Bayesian mixing model MixSIAR were used to estimate the proportional contributions of prey types to the diet. Both species had relatively wide diets that included hard-shelled and soft-bodied prey, albeit in different proportions; the smasher consumed a greater proportion of hard-shelled prey, and the spearer consumed mostly soft-bodied prey. Appendage kinematics in stomatopods is known to scale linearly across species. These two small species may produce similar kinematics allowing them both to capture evasive prey and hammer hard-shelled prey, thereby widening their diets. Yet, the spearer species is more highly adept at capturing evasive prey, indicating that small spearers are stronger competitors for soft-bodied prey. These findings suggest that a smasher's ability to access hard prey reduced competition for soft prey, and therefore conferred an important benefit favouring the evolution of the impressive smashing strike.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3740144.
- Received January 28, 2017.
- Accepted April 3, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.