What can morphology tell us about ecology of four invasive goby species?
This study presents a detailed comparative analysis of external morphology of four of the most invasive goby species in Europe (round goby Neogobius melanostomus, bighead goby Ponticola kessleri, monkey goby Neogobius fluviatilis and racer goby Ponticola gymnotrachelus) and interprets some ecological requirements of these species based on their morphological attributes. The results are evaluated within an ontogenetic context, and the morphological differences between the species are discussed in terms of the question: can special external shape adaptations help to assess the invasive potential of each species? The morphometric analyses demonstrate important differences between the four invasive gobies. Neogobius melanostomus appears to have the least specialized external morphology that may favour its invasive success: little specialization to habitat or diet means reduced restraints on overall ecological requirements. The other three species were found to possess some morphological specializations (P. kessleri to large prey, N. fluviatilis to sandy habitats and P. gymnotrachelus to macrophytes), but none of these gobies have managed to colonize such large areas or to reach such overall abundances as N. melanostomus.