Predicting and testing resource partitioning in a tropical fish assemblage of zooplanktivorous ‘barbs’: an ecomorphological approach

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Abstract:

Morphometrics on 25 critical feeding structures predicted conspicuous specializations in Barbus tanapelagius (pursuit hunting for zooplankton), Labeobarbus brevicephalus (surface dwelling pump-filter-feeder on zooplankton) and Barbus pleurogramma (particulate feeding on tough, benthic food), whereas for Barbus humilis intermediate values predicted few constraints and specializations in feeding. These potential niches, set by fish size and structural constraints, were tested by comparing gut contents collected during a 24 months sampling programme on Lake Tana, Ethiopia. Zooplankton dominated the diet of B. tanapelagius (75% of gut volume) and L. brevicephalus (39%). The guts of B. pleurogramma and juveniles of the large labeobarbs showed an array of benthic food types, whereas B. humilis had the widest food niche, both zooplankton (40% of gut volume) and benthic invertebrates. Although the pelagic species showed the largest spatial overlap, their size, feeding modes and utilization of zooplankters differed: L. brevicephalus preyed predominantly on the larger zooplankton (Daphnia sp.) and B. tanapelagius also on smaller species (e.g. Bosmina sp. and cyclopoid copepods). The spatial segregation between B. tanapelagius (pelagic) and the juvenile labeobarbs (littoral) indicated the possibility for a small pelagic barb fishery without negative effects on the labeobarb stocks. The ecomorphological approach using the ‘Food-Fish Model’ appeared to predict competitive positions and resource partitioning appropriately, and is of major importance to evaluate food web interactions.

Keywords: Barbus; cyprinids; morphometrics; niche segregation; pelagic fisheries; potential niche

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2006.01197.x

Affiliations: Netherlands Institute of Ecological Research (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Limnology, Rijksstraatweg 6, 3631 AC Nieuwersluis, The Netherlands

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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