Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 167–182 | Cite as

Comparisons of the food niches of three native and two introduced fish species in an Australian river

  • Luke J. Pen
  • Ian C. Potter
  • Michael C. Calver


The breadth, correspondence and overlap of the diets of the small and large size classes of the three native species (Galaxias occidentalis, Bostockia porosa and Edelia vittata) and two introduced species (Gambusia holbrooki and Perca fluviatilis) of fishes found in the shallows of the main channel and in the tributary creeks of a south-western Australian river have been compared in each season. Classification and ordination were used to examine the overall interrelationships of the diets across species, size groups, seasons and the location where the fish were caught (channel or creek). The smaller fish had a narrower dietary breadth than larger fish in the spring and summer, presumably reflecting the size limit imposed on prey size by their possession of a relatively small mouth in these seasons. Intraspecific dietary overlap between large and small size classes was usually high in G. occidentalis, but generally low in G. holbrooki and P. fluviatilis, and also in B. porosa and E. vittata when the difference between the lengths of the two size groups was greatest. Dietary overlap was least in autumn when the main prey taxa were most abundant. During winter, the diets of the three native species in the tributaries converged, probably reflecting a relatively low faunal diversity in these highly seasonal water bodies. The only relatively consistent interspecific overlap in diet was between B. porosa and E. vittata. Classification and ordination of the dietary samples separated G. occidentalis (which fed extensively on terrestrial organisms from the water surface) from the smaller P. fluviatilis (that concentrated on copepods in the plankton) and from B. porosa and E. vittata (which ingested primarily benthic organisms). Furthermore, B. porosa tended to ingest larger prey taxa than E. vittata. The diet of Gambusia holbrooki is sometimes dominated by terrestrial insects and at other times by benthic organisms, demonstrating that this species is an opportunistic carnivore. It is concluded that food partitioning by the three native and two introduced fish species in the Collie River is likely to be one of the principal factors facilitating the coexistence of substantial populations of these species in this system.

Key words

Depauperate fauna Feeding Benthos Plankton Water surface Dietary overlap Coexistence 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luke J. Pen
    • 1
  • Ian C. Potter
    • 1
  • Michael C. Calver
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological and Environmental SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochWestern Australia

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