, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 283-290
Date: 08 Oct 2011

The invasive venomous striped eel catfish Plotosus lineatus in the Levant: possible mechanisms facilitating its rapid invasional success

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Abstract

The venomous striped eel catfish Plotosus lineatus was first recorded in the Mediterranean in 2002. Within 1–3 years, it has spread throughout the entire Israeli coast. We have studied its spatiotemporal distribution patterns via trawl surveys in order to determine the scale and extent of this invasion. Findings indicate that a population explosion has occurred, and the catfish now inhabits all sandy and muddy substrates up to ca 80 m. P. lineatus was found to recruit in autumn in the Mediterranean and displays similar or improved growth patterns and condition factor compared to those found in its native habitat. We discuss the possible ecological mechanisms responsible for its success: Benthic invaders are among its main prey items, suggesting an invasional meltdown process. We also point to the decline of indigenous species using its trophic and behavioral–ecological niche and hypothesize that they might be outcompeted and displaced by the catfish.

Communicated by J. D. R. Houghton.