Food partitioning within the species-rich benthic fish community of Lake Malawi, East Africa

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Abstract:

Temporal diet patterns were studied for nine species of haplochromine cichlids in Lake Malawi, East Africa, using a combination of stable isotope and stomach content analyses. The results illustrate the complementarity of the two approaches in elucidating dietary differences. Evidence was found that benthic algal production contributed to the energy requirements of offshore fishes that occupy depths between 10 and 30 m. The importance of the lake fly Chaoborus edulis as a food source for demersal fishes was confirmed, supporting the recent hypothesis that deep demersal fish production is principally sustained through the pelagic food chain rather than from benthic detrital sources. Isotopic differences were observed among species with apparently similar diets, feeding behavior, and depth preferences, suggesting that important resource partitioning exists among Lake Malawi benthic haplochromine cichlids.

Les variations temporelles de régime alimentaire de neuf espèces de cichlidés haplochromis du lac Malawi (Afrique de l'est) ont été étudiées grâce à l'utilisation combinée des contenus stomacaux et des analyses d'isotopes stables. Les résultats illustrent la complémentarité des deux approches pour élucider les différences d'alimentation entre espèces proches. Cette étude a mis en évidence la contribution de la production algale benthique aux besoins alimentaires des poissons entre 10 et 30 m de profondeur. L'importance de Chaoborus edulis comme source alimentaire pour les espèces démersales a été confirmée, ce qui renforce l'hypothèse récente selon laquelle la production de poissons démersaux repose principalement sur une chaîne alimentaire de type pélagique et non pas sur des sources de détritus benthiques. Des stratégies trophiques distinctes ont été observées entre espèces ayant apparemment des préférences bathymétriques, des régimes et des comportements alimentaires similaires, ce qui suggère l'existence d'un important partage des ressources au sein des cichlidés haplochromis benthiques du lac Malawi.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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