Salinity tolerance of non-native Asian swamp eels (Teleostei: Synbranchidae) in Florida, USA: comparison of three populations and implications for dispersal
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Three populations of non-native Asian swamp eels are established in peninsular Florida (USA), and comprise two different genetic lineages. To assess potential for these fish to penetrate estuarine habitats or use coastal waters as dispersal routes, we determined their salinity tolerances. Swamp eels from the three Florida populations were tested by gradual (chronic) salinity increases; additionally, individuals from the Miami population were tested by abrupt (acute) salinity increases. Results showed significant tolerance by all populations to mesohaline waters: Mean survival time at 14 ppt was 63 days. The Homestead population, a genetically distinct lineage, exhibited greater tolerance to higher salinity than Tampa and Miami populations. Acute experiments indicated that swamp eels were capable of tolerating abrupt shifts from 0 to 16 ppt, with little mortality over 10 days. The broad salinity tolerance demonstrated by these experiments provides evidence that swamp eels are physiologically capable of infiltrating estuarine environments and using coastal waters to invade new freshwater systems.