Temperature-Specific Competition between Invasive Mosquitofish and an Endangered Cyprinodontid Fish

Condition-specific competition is widespread in nature. Species inhabiting heterogeneous environments tend to differ in competitive abilities depending on environmental stressors. Interactions between these factors can allow coexistence of competing species, which may be particularly important between invasive and native species. Here, we examine the effects of temperature on competitiveinteractions between invasive mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki, and an endemic Iberian toothcarp, Aphanius iberus. We compare the tendency to approach heterospecifics and food capture rates between these two species, and examine differences between sexes and species in aggressive interactions, at three different temperatures (19, 24 and 29uC) in three laboratory experiments. Mosquitofish exhibit much more aggression than toothcarp. We show that mosquitofish have the capacity to competitively displace toothcarp through interference competition and this outcome is more likely at higher temperatures. We also show a reversal in the competitive hierarchy through reduced food capture rate by mosquitofish at lower temperatures and suggest that these two types of competition may act synergistically to deprive toothcarp of food at higher temperatures. Males of both species carry out more overtly aggressive acts than females, which is probably related to the marked sexual dimorphism and associated mating systems of these two species. Mosquitofish may thus impact heavily on toothcarp, and competition from mosquitofish, especially in warmer summer months, may lead to changes in abundance of the native species and displacement to non-preferred habitats. Globally increasing temperatures mean that highly invasive, warm-water mosquitofish may be able to colonize environments from which they are currently excluded through reduced physiological tolerance to low temperatures. Research into the effects of temperature on interactions between native and invasive species is thus of fundamental importance ​
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