, Volume 44, Issue 1-3, pp 183-197

Papyrus swamps and the respiratory ecology of Barbus neumayeri

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Synopsis

In seasonally flooding fresh waters, dissolved oxygen and fluctating water levels combine to create strong seasonal changes in habitat availability and dispersal pathways for fishes. In this study we demonstrate how respiratory mode can affect the use of and dispersal through hypoxic papyrus swamps for a small cyprinid fish, Barbus neumayeri, a species which uses aquatic surface respiration (ASR) in response to severe hypoxia. Monthly records of the distribution and relative abundance of B. neumayeri across 28 stations in a papyrus swamp in Uganda were used to examine seasonal patterns of habitat use and movement. The distribution of B. neumayeri was very restricted during the drier months. Most fish were captured in open pools and channels with large areas of open water surface and higher oxygen. Movement of B. neumayeri was limited to short periods during the wet season when peak water levels produced high levels of oxygen and pathways for movement. Three lines of evidence suggest that these patterns relate to its respiratory mode. These include: the positive :relationship between dissolved oxygen and the number of stations used per month, the positive relationship between fish density at dry season stations and dissolved oxygen, and the absence of fish from stations with. little open water surface area during the dry season. Significant differences in the gill morphology between B. neumayeri from the papyrus swamp and those from the main river suggest that papyrus swamps may contribute to the diversification of B. neumayeri by limiting movement and demanding specialization for extremely hypoxic waters.