The introduced Micropterus salmoides in an equatorial lake: a paradoxical loser in an invasion meltdown scenario?
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Micropterus salmoides is a North American piscivorous fish on the IUCN list of 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species. Introduced into Lake Naivasha (Kenya) in 1929, their current population abundance is significantly depressed in a lake that has recently become dominated by fishes of the Cyprinidae family; the introduced cyprinid Cyprinus carpio now dominates catches in the commercial fishery and Barbus paludinous is now numerically dominant in the fish community. Long-term diet studies of M. salmoides based on gut contents analysis (GCA) have defined their diet spectrum, feeding preferences and ontogenetic dietary shifts. Between 1987 and 1991, diet was size-structured; fish <260 mm were mainly insectivorous and fish >260 mm fed mainly on invasive crayfish Procambarus clarkia with B. paludinosus rarely taken. More recent GCA data revealed that up to 2003, these size-structured trophic relationships were still evident, but there has been a subsequent shift to their feeding almost exclusively on small (<100 mm) B. paludinosus, coincident with a size-related functional switch whereby M. salmoides >120 mm were now piscivorous. However, a Bayesian stable isotope mixing model (SIAR) suggested M. salmoides diet actually remained relatively varied in 2006 and 2007; it indicated P. clarkii were still contributing more to their diet than B. paludinosus in fish <260 mm and provided only partial support for the functional shift. The consequence of the M. salmoides depressed population abundance is their predation pressure on prey fishes is limited and preventing top-down effects. This is in contrast to their invasive populations elsewhere in the world and the likely result of invasion meltdown processes in Naivasha involving the introduced C. carpio and P. clarkii that have produced sub-optimal foraging conditions for M. salmoides.
KeywordsLargemouth bass Procambarus clarkii Barbus paludinosus Cyprinus carpio Diet composition Invasive species
This work was completed as part of the ‘Lakes of the Rift Valley’ project of the Universities of Leicester and Nairobi, funded by the Earthwatch Institute, Boston, U.S.A and Oxford, England, with logistics supported by the Darwin Initiative 2003 to 2008. Funding was also received from the British Council project ‘Field-IT’ in 2008. JG was supported by the Max Planck Society and the British Ecological Society. We thank the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Government of Kenya for research permission.
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