, Volume 11, Issue 10, pp 2265-2277
Date: 24 Dec 2008

Life history and parasites of the invasive mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) along a latitudinal gradient

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The eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) is among the most invasive fish worldwide and yet, while very abundant in most Mediterranean countries, it is unable to tolerate the colder winters of northern and central Europe. Understanding the effects of latitude on its life-history traits is essential to predict the potential for its invasion of central Europe in current scenarios of climate change. We studied the variation of life-history traits and parasite load in the eastern mosquitofish along a latitudinal gradient from southern France to southern Spain, sampling mosquitofish populations in eight Mediterranean river mouths ranging 5° in latitude. Southern mosquitofish populations displayed higher catch rates, allocated more energy to reproduction (gonadosomatic index and gonadal weight after accounting for fish size) and had a lower condition (total weight and eviscerated weight after accounting for fish size) than in northern populations. Despite variability among populations, size-at-maturity (L50) significantly varied with latitude and northern individuals matured at smaller size (lower L50). Parasite prevalence ranged from 0.0 to 26.7% but parasite richness was very low; all the parasites identified were larvae of pleurocercoid cestodes belonging to the order Pseudophyllidea. The abundance of mosquitofish parasites decreased with latitude and the presence and number of parasites infecting the mosquitofish had a significant negative effect on fish condition. The significant effects of latitude on the catch rates, life history and parasites of mosquitofish highlight the importance of latitudinal studies of invasive species to understand the interactive mechanisms of climate change and biological invasions.