Experimental assessment of the effects of a Neotropical nocturnal piscivore on juvenile native and invasive fishes

We experimentally examined the predator-prey relationships between juvenile spotted sorubim Pseudoplastystoma corruscans and young-of-the-year invasive and native fish species of the Paraná River basin, Brazil. Three invasive (peacock bass Cichla piquiti, Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus, and channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus) and two native (yellowtail tetra Astyanax altiparanae and streaked prochilod Prochilodus lineatus) fish species were offered as prey to P. corruscans in 300 L aquaria with three habitat complexity treatments (0%, 50% and 100% structure-covered). Prey survival was variable through time and among species (C. piquiti < O. niloticus < A. altiparanae < P. lineatus < I. punctatus), depending largely on species-specific prey behavior but also on prey size and morphological defenses. Habitat complexity did not directly affect P. corruscans piscivory but some prey species changed their microhabitat use and shoaling behavior among habitat treatments in predator’s presence. Pseudoplatystoma corruscans preyed preferentially on smaller individuals of those invasive species with weak morphological defensive features that persisted in a non-shoaling behavior. Overall, our results contrast with those in a companion experiment using a diurnal predator, suggesting that nocturnal piscivores preferentially prey on different (rather diurnal) fish species and are less affected by habitat complexity. Our findings suggest that recovering the native populations of P. corruscans might help controling some fish species introduced to the Paraná River basin, particularly C. piquiti and O. niloticus, whose parental care is expected to be weak or null at night ​
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