Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 117–135 | Cite as

Fish communities along environmental gradients in a system of tropical streams

  • Paul L. Angermeier
  • James R. Karr
Papers from a symposium on the Evolutionary Ecology of Neotropical Freshwater Fishes


Fish community structure was examined in 9 forested streams (1–6 m wide) in central Panama during dry seasons over a 3 year period. Study regions varied in annual rainfall, degree of canopy shading, and topographical relief. Benthic invertebrates were more abundant in riffles than in pools and more abundant in early (January) than late (March) dry season. In addition, benthos abundances were negatively correlated with canopy shading among study regions. Terrestrial invertebrate abundances were greater in January than March and were correlated with stream width. Fishes were assigned to 7 feeding guilds (algivores, aquatic insectivores, general insectivores, piscivores, scale-eaters, terrestrial herbivores, omnivores) on the basis of similarity of gut contents. Four species exhibited marked dietary shifts with increasing size. Distributions of feeding guilds (biomass) among habitats and streams were not generally correlated with availabilities of their major food resources. All feeding guilds except aquatic insectivores were most concentrated (biomass per area) into deep pools. Densities of algivores and terrestrial herbivores increased with stream size, but the density of aquatic insectivores declined. Species richness of feeding guilds increased with stream size and canopy openness. The proportion of fish biomass supported by algae and terrestrial plant material increased with stream size, while that supported by aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates declined. Small fishes (<40 mm TL) were most abundant in pools of small streams. Terrestrial predators appeared to be more important than food availability in determining distributions of fish among habitats. However, trophic diversity of fish communities may be related to the reliability of available food resources.


Canopy openness Community structure Trophic guilds Fish distribution Food availability Habitat selection Panama Seasonality 


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Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul L. Angermeier
    • 1
  • James R. Karr
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Ethology and EvolutionUniversity of IllinoisChampaignUSA

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