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Quantifying trophic interactions and niche sizes of juvenile fishes in an invaded riverine cyprinid fish community

Gutmann Roberts, C and Britton, JR (2018) Quantifying trophic interactions and niche sizes of juvenile fishes in an invaded riverine cyprinid fish community. Ecology of Freshwater Fish. ISSN 0906-6691

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Abstract

© 2018 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Quantifying feeding interactions between nonindigenous and indigenous fishes in invaded fish communities is important for determining how introduced species integrate into native food webs. Here, the trophic interactions of invasive 0+ European barbel Barbus barbus (L.) and the three other principal 0+ fishes in the community, Squalius cephalus (L.), Leuciscus leuciscus (L.) and Phoxinus phoxinus (L.), were investigated in the River Teme, a River Severn tributary in Western England. B. barbus has been present in the River Teme for approximately 40 years. Analyses of stomach contents from samples collected from three sites between June and September 2015 revealed that, overall, fishes displayed a generalist feeding strategy, with most prey having low frequency of selection. Relationships of diet composition versus body length and gape height were species-specific, with increasing dietary specialisms apparent as the 0+ fishes increased in length and gape height. The trophic niche size of invasive B. barbus was always significantly smaller than S. cephalus and L. leuciscus and was significantly smaller than P. phoxinus at two sites. This was primarily due to differences in the functional morphology of the fishes; 0+ B. barbus were generally restricted to foraging on the benthos, whereas the other fishes were able to forage on prey present throughout the water column. Nevertheless, the invasive B. barbus were exploiting very similar prey items to populations in their native range, suggesting these invaders were strongly pre-adapted to the River Teme and this arguably facilitated their establishment and invasion.

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