Foraging in Non-Native Environments: Comparison of Nile Tilapia and Three Co-Occurring Native Centrarchids In Invaded Coastal Mississippi Watersheds

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


We examined the diet of the alien Nile tilapia and bluegill, redear sunfish, and largemouth bass over a two-year period in coastal Mississippi. Nile tilapia diet was visually separated from the three natives based on group-average linkage cluster analysis. Sequential two-way nested analysis of similarities indicted there was no season effect (Global R = 0.026, P = 24.3%), but there was a moderate size class effect (Global R = 0.457, P = 0.1%) and a strong species effect (Global R = 0.876, P = 0.1%). Pairwise tests indicated species fed on different components of and locations within the environment, with bluegill, redear sunfish and largemouth bass (all R >= 0.683, P = 0.1%) having the most similar dietary components and Nile tilapia (all R >= 0.953, P = 0.1%) having the most distinct. Multivariate dispersion indicated that largemouth bass (1.425) and bluegill (1.394) had the most diverse diets compared to redear sunfish (0.906) and Nile tilapia (0.918). Similarities of percentages indicated that diets were separated based on prey: bluegill and redear sunfish consumed chironomids and insects; largemouth bass consumed fish and insects; and Nile tilapia fed most often on sediment resources such as nematodes, rotifers, bryozoans and hydrozoans. Nile tilapia had the highest frequency of mud, sand and detritus in their stomachs, suggesting they fed directly on bottom sediments. These data and the fact that Nile tilapia has a 1.3-7.6 times longer intestine on average than its body length, support our contention that this alien species feeds at the base of the food web and is well adapted to survive and proliferate in non-native environments.

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Environmental Biology of Fishes





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