, Volume 614, Issue 1, pp 19–31 | Cite as

The importance of zooplankton in the diets of three native fish species in floodplain waterholes of a dryland river, the Macintyre River, Australia

  • Elvio S. F. MedeirosEmail author
  • Angela H. Arthington


The zooplankton of freshwater systems has been recognized as an important energy resource for fish of small body size that, in turn, provide energy to piscivorous fish consumers higher up the food web. This study evaluates the importance of zooplankton to the diets of three species of fish living in floodplain waterholes of an Australian dryland river. The species selected for study represent different trophic categories in waterhole food webs: Ambassis agassizii is a microcarnivore, Leiopotherapon unicolor is an omnivore, and Nematalosa erebi is a detritivore. Dietary differences among size classes of each species were also evaluated to understand possible ontogenetic shifts in zooplankton consumption. Ambassis agassizii fed primarily on zooplankton (99.9%, made up mostly of 81.6% Calanoida and 17.4% Moinidae), regardless of the size of individual fish. Leiopotherapon unicolor fed on zooplankton (47%, mostly Daphniidae and Moinidae) and aquatic insects (46.7%). Smaller individuals of Leiopotherapon unicolor (30–49 mm TL—total length) were responsible for 36.1% of the plankton consumed by the species. Nematalosa erebi fed on detritus (84.6%) with zooplankton (Calanoida, Moinidae, and Cyclopoida) contributing only 13.7% of the mean diet. Smaller individuals (40–69 mm TL) were responsible for 98% of the plankton consumed by Nematalosa erebi, and individuals of 40–49 mm (TL) fed exclusively on zooplankton (53.8% Moinidae and 46.2% Calanoida). Although the three fish species had different diets, reflecting differences in species-specific and ontogenetic morphological and behavioral characteristics, zooplankton formed the basis of the diet of all species when young. These results confirm the importance of zooplankton as a major food resource for three fish species and smaller size classes of these species in floodplain waterholes of the Macintyre River, Australia.


Fish Diet Zooplankton Floodplain waterholes Dryland rivers Australia 



The authors are grateful to Griffith University for financial support during the course of this research and the Brazilian Agency for Post-Graduate Education (CAPES) for a post-graduate scholarship to Elvio Medeiros (BEX 1475/99-1). The authors also thank Dr. Glenn Wilson (formerly located at the Northern Basin Laboratory, MDFRC, Goondiwindi) for his support during field aspects of this study. Fish were collected under Queensland and New South Wales Fisheries Permit Nos. PRM00234H, PRM03315D and P01/0089, and Griffith University Research Ethics Protocol No. AES/02/01/aec. Completion of this paper represents a contribution to the eWater Co-operative Research Centre (Program B, Project F2).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elvio S. F. Medeiros
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Angela H. Arthington
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian Rivers Institute and eWater Co-operative Research CentreGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  2. 2.Departamento de Biologia, CCBSUniversidade Estadual da ParaibaCampina GrandeBrazil

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