Revista de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

Objectively measuring subjectively described traits: geographic variation in body shape and caudal coloration pattern within Vieja melanura (Teleostei: Cichlidae)

Supplementary Files

Permissions letter


Central America
América Media

How to Cite

McMahan, C. D., Kutz, J., Murray, C., Chakrabarty, P., Geheber, A., & Elias, D. (2017). Objectively measuring subjectively described traits: geographic variation in body shape and caudal coloration pattern within Vieja melanura (Teleostei: Cichlidae). Revista De Biología Tropical, 65(2), 623–631.


Vieja melanura is a Neotropical cichlid occurring in the Petén-lake district systems of Guatemala, as well as the Río Grijalva-Usumacinta basin, and other systems in Southern México, Belize, and Guatemala. A caudal stripe, extending forward from the caudal peduncle, is characteristic of this species. This stripe is sloped downward in nearly all individuals of V. melanura, but the degree of the slope is highly variable throughout its range. The slope and shape of the stripe has previously been used in diagnosing and differentiating between species of Vieja. The purpose of this study was to use objective methods to investigate morphological variation in the caudal stripe and body shape throughout the range of V. melanura. We studied geometric morphometric analyses of body shape and empirical measurements of the slope of the caudal stripe in 215 specimens of V. melanura. We also used the mitochondrial cytochrome b marker to study population level patterns within V. melanura. Results from our analyses showed significant geographic variation in body shape and patterns of coloration with little mitochondrial phylogeographic structure. These patterns likely correspond to differences in riverine habitats throughout the species’ distribution. In conclusion, these results can be used to inform other studies of color and shape variation as it applies to taxonomy and systematics.


Clarke, K. R. (1993). Non-parametric multivariate analyses of changes in community structure. Australian Journal of Ecology, 18, 117-143

Clarke, K. R., & Gorley, R. N. (2006). PRIMER v6: User Manual/Tutorial. Plymouth, England: PRIMER-E.

Esselman, P. C., Freeman, M. C., & Pringle, C. M. (2006). Fish-assemblage variation between geologically defined regions and across a longitudinal gradient in the Monkey River Basin, Belize. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 25(1), 142-156.

Greenfield, D. W., & Thomerson, J. E. (1997). Fishes of the Continental Waters of Belize. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida.

Haas, T. C., Blum, M. J., & Heins, D. C. (2010). Morphological responses of a stream fish to water impoundment. Biology Letters, 6(6), 803-806.

Hubbs, C. L. (1935). Fresh-water fishes collected in British Honduras and Guatemala. Miscellaneous Publications, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, 28, 1-22.

Kihn-Peneda, P. H., Cano, E. B., & Morales, A. (2006). Peces de las aguas interiores de Guatemala. In E. B. Cano (Ed.), Biodiversidad de Guatemala (pp. 457-486). Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

López-Fernández, H., Winemiller, K. O., & Honeycut, R. L. (2010). Multilocus phylogeney and rapid radiations in Neotropical cichlid fishes (Perciformes: Cichlidae: Cichlinae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 55(3), 1070-1086.

Matamoros, W. A., McMahan, C. D., Chakrabarty, P., Albert, J. S., & Schaefer, J. F. (2015). Derivation of the freshwater fish fauna of Central America revisited: Myers’s hypothesis in the twenty-first century. Cladistics, 31(2), 177-188.

McMahan, C. D., Murray, C. M., Geheber, A. D., Boeckman, C. D., & Piller, K. R. (2011). Paraneetroplus synspilus is a junior synonym of Paraneetroplus melanurus (Teleostei: Cichlidae). Zootaxa, 2833, 1-14.

McMahan, C. D., Geheber, A. D., & Piller, K. R. (2010). Molecular systematics of the enigmatic Middle American genus Vieja (Teleostei: Cichlidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 57(3), 1293-1300.

Murray, C. M., Piller, K. R., Merchant, M., Cooper, A., & Easter, M. E. (2013). Salinity and egg shape variation: a geometric morphometric analysis. Journal of Herpetology, 47(1): 15-23.

Miller, R. R., Minckley, W. L., & Norris, S. M. (2006). Freshwater Fishes of Mexico. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press.

Mittleback, G. C., Osenberg, C. W., & Wainwright, P. C. (1999). Variation in feeding morphology between pumpkinseed populations: Phenotypic plasticity or evolution? Evolutionary Ecology Research, 1, 111-128.

Rohlf, J. F. (2008). TpsDig. Ecology and Evolution. New York, USA: SUNY at Stony Brook.

Rohlf, J. F. (2007). TpsRegr, thin plate spline regression, version 1.35. New York, USA: SUNY at Stony Brook.

Rohlf, J. F. (2009). Tps Utility Program. Ecology and Evolution. New York, USA: SUNY at Stony Brook.

Swofford, D. L. (2002). PAUP*, Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony (*and other methods), version 4.0. Sunderland, MA.: Sinauer Associates.

Webster, M. M., Atton, N., Hart, P. J. B., & Ward, A. J. W. (2011). Habitat-specific morphological variation among Threespine Sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) within a drainage basin. PLoS ONE, 6(6), e21060.



Download data is not yet available.