, Volume 203, Issue 1–2, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Factors influencing fish distribution and community structure in a small coastal river in southwestern Costa Rica

  • John Lyons
  • Daniel W. Schneider


We evaluated the relative importance of habitat size and diversity and distance from the ocean in explaining longitudinal patterns of fish distribution and community structure (species richness, evenness, and diversity) in the lower 5 km of the Rio Claro. The Rio Claro is a small coastal river in Corcovado National Park, southwestern Costa Rica, with a depauperate freshwater fish fauna. We observed 22 species in pools, 19 of which occured during quantitative sampling. Most of these species probably spent part of their lives in the Pacific Ocean. We observed no species in riffles, although these habitats were common and several taxa (e.g., Gobiesocidae, Gobiidae) were adapted for life in fast turbulent water. Fish abundance, and species richness, evenness, and diversity were highest near the ocean, where high tides influenced river levels and salinity. Eight species were not observed further than 2900 m from the ocean, whereas 6 species were not encountered in samples nearest the ocean; the remaining 8 species were present throughout the study area. Distance from the ocean was a better predictor of fish abundance and community structure than were pool width, pool depth, pool surface area, pool volume, amount of cover present, substrate diversity, or depth diversity. Based in qualitative comparisons of our data with previously published data from 1980–1986, the fish assemblage of the Rio Claro is persistent in both species composition and relative abundance.

Key words

Costa Rica distribution diversity fishes habitat rivers 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alpirez-Q., O., 1985. Ictiofauna de la variente Pacifica de Costa Rica. Brenesia 24: 297–318.Google Scholar
  2. Angermeier, P. L. & J. R. Karr, 1983. Fish communities along environmental gradients in a system of tropical streams. Envir. Biol. Fishes 9: 117–318.Google Scholar
  3. Angermeier, P. L. & I. J. Schlosser, 1989. Species-area relationship for stream fishes. Ecology 70: 1450–1462.Google Scholar
  4. Briggs, J. C., 1984. Freshwater fishes and biogeography of Central America and the Antilles. Syst. Zool. 33: 428–435.Google Scholar
  5. Bussing, W. A., 1976. Geographical distribution of the San Juan ichthyofauna of Central America, with remarks in its origin and ecology. In T. B. Thorson (ed.), Investigations into the ichthyofauna of Nicaraguan lakes. Univ. Nebraska Press, Lincoln (USA): 157–175.Google Scholar
  6. Bussing, W. A., 1987. Peces de las aguas continentales de Costa Rica. Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose (Costa Rica): 271 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Bussing, W. A. & M. I. Lopez, 1977. Distribucion y aspectos ecologicos de los peces de las cuencas hidrograficas de Arenal Bebedero y Tempisque, Costa Rica. Revista de Biologia Tropical 25: 13–37.Google Scholar
  8. Carr, A. F. & L. Giovannoli, 1950. The fishes of the Choluteca drainage of southern Honduras. Univ. Michigan, Occas. Pap. Mus. Zool;, No. 523.Google Scholar
  9. Coen, E., 1983. Climate. In D. H. Janzen (ed.), Costa Rican natural history. Univ. Chicago Press (IL. USA): 35–46.Google Scholar
  10. Constantz, G. D., W. A. Bussing & W. G. Saul, 1981. Freshwater fishes of Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica. Proc. Acad. nat. Sci. Philad. 133: 15–19.Google Scholar
  11. Cruz, G. A., 1987. Reproductive biology and feeding habits of cuyamel, Joturus pichardi and tepemechin, Agonostomus monticola (Pisces; Mugilidae) from Rio Platano, Mosquitia, Honduras. Bull. mar. Sci. 40: 63–72.Google Scholar
  12. Dawson, C. E., 1974. Pseudophallus brasiliensis (Pisces: Syngnathidae), a new freshwater pipefish from Brazil. Proc. biol. Soc. Wash. 87: 405–410.Google Scholar
  13. Erdman, D. S., 1986. The green stream goby, Sicydium plumieri, in Puerto Rico. Trop. Fish Hobbyist 34: 70–74.Google Scholar
  14. Erman, D. C., 1986. Long-term structure of fish populations in Sagehen Creek, California. Trans. am. Fish. Soc. 115: 682–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ford, J. I. & R. A. Kinzie, 1982. Life crawls upstream. Nat. His. 91: 61–67.Google Scholar
  16. Freeman, M. C., M. K. Crawford, J. C. Barrett, D. E. Facey, M. G. Flood, J. Hill, D. J. Stouder & G. D. Grossman, 1988. Fish assemblage stability in a southern Appalachian stream. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sci. 45: 1949–1958.Google Scholar
  17. Gorman, O. T. & J. R. Karr, 1978. Habitat structure and stream fish communities. Ecology 59: 507–515.Google Scholar
  18. Grossman, G. D., P. B. Moyle & J. O. Whitaker, 1982. Stochasticity in structural and functional characteristics of an Indiana stream fish assemblage. Am. Nat. 126: 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hildebrand, S. F., 1938. A new catalogue of the freshwater fishes of Panama. Field Mus. nat. Hist. zool. Ser. 22: 219–359.Google Scholar
  20. Hughes, R. M. & J. M. Omernik, 1981. Use and misuse of the terms watershed and stream order. In L. A. Krumholz (ed.), The warmwater streams symposium. Am. Fish. Soc., Bethesda (MD; USA): 320–326.Google Scholar
  21. Kinzie, R. A., 1988. Habitat utilization by Hawaiian stream fishes with reference to community structure in oceanic island streams. Envir. Biol. Fishes 22: 179–192.Google Scholar
  22. Lopez, M. I. & W. A. Bussing, 1982. Lista provisional de los peces de la Costa Pacifica de Costa Rica. Revista de Biologia Tropical 30: 5–26.Google Scholar
  23. Lowe-McConnell, R. H., 1987. Ecological studies in tropical fish communities. Cambridge Univ. Press, N.Y., 382 pp.Google Scholar
  24. McDowall, R. M., 1988. Diadromy in fishes. Timber Press, Portland (OR; USA), 308 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Miller, R. R., 1959. Variation, distribution, and relationships of the Mexican eleotrid fish Gobiomorus maculatus. Univ. Michigan, Occas. Pap. Mus. Zool., No. 607.Google Scholar
  26. Miller, R. R., 1966. Geographical distribution of Central American freshwater fishes. Copeia 1966: 773–802.Google Scholar
  27. Myers, G. S., 1966. Derivation of the freshwater fish fauna of Central America. Copeia 1966: 766–773.Google Scholar
  28. Nordile, F. G., 1981. Feeding and reproductive biology of eleotrid fishes in a tropical estuary. J. Fish Biol. 18: 97–110.Google Scholar
  29. Peet, R. K., 1974. The measurement of species diversity. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 5: 285–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Power, M. E., 1983. Grazing responses of tropical freshwater fishes to different scales of variation in their food. Envir. Biol Fishes 9: 103–115.Google Scholar
  31. Power, M. E., 1984a. Depth distribution of armored catfish: predator-induced avoidance? Ecology 65: 523–528.Google Scholar
  32. Power, M. E., 1984b. Habitat quality and the distribution of algae-grazing catfish in a Panamanian stream. J. anim. Ecol. 53: 357–374.Google Scholar
  33. Power, M. E., 1987. Predator avoidance by grazing fishes in temperate and tropical streams: importance of stream depth and prey size. In W. C. Kerfoot & A. Sib (ed.), Predation. Direct and indirect impacts on aquatic communities. Univ. Press New England, Hanover (NH; USA): 333–351.Google Scholar
  34. Radtke, R. L., R. A. Kinzie & S. D. Folson, 1988. Age at recruitment of Hawaiian freshwater gobies. Envir. Biol. Fishes 23: 205–213.Google Scholar
  35. SAS (Statistical Analysis System), 1985. SAS user's guide: statistics. SAS Institute, Inc., Cary (NC; USA), 956 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Scheider, D. W. & T. M. Frost, 1986. Massive upstream migrations by a tropical freshwater snail. Hydrobiologia 137: 153–157.Google Scholar
  37. Winemiller, K. O., 1983. An introduction to the freshwater fish communities of Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica. Brenesia 21: 47–66.Google Scholar
  38. Winemiller, K. O. & N. E. Morales, 1989. Comunidades de peces del Parque Nacional Corcovado luego del cese de las actividades mineras. Brenesia: in press.Google Scholar
  39. Zalewski, M. & R. J. Naiman, 1985. The regulation of riverine fish communities by a continuum of abiotic-biotic factors. In J. S. Alabaster (ed.), Habitat modification and freshwater fisheries. Butterworths, Lond.: 3–9.Google Scholar
  40. Zaret, T. M., 1982. The stability/diversity controversy: a test of hypotheses. Ecology 63: 721–731.Google Scholar
  41. Zaret, T. M. & A. S. Rand, 1971. Competition in stream fishes: support for the competitive exclusion principle. Ecology 52: 336–342.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Lyons
    • 1
  • Daniel W. Schneider
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for LimnologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations