Interactions between Nile perch, Lates niloticus, and other fishes in Lake Nabugabo, Uganda
The introduction of the predatory Nile perch, Lates niloticus, into the Lake Victoria basin coincided with a dramatic decline in fish species richness and diversity. This study focused on interactions between Nile perch and indigenous fishes in Lake Nabugabo, Uganda, a small satellite lake of Lake Victoria. We evaluated how the foraging impact of juvenile Nile perch on prey fishes varied with the size of the predator. We also evaluated the role of wetland ecotones in minimizing interaction between Nile perch and indigenous fishes. Wetland ecotones in Lake Nabugabo were characterized by complex structure (e.g., dense vegetation) and lower dissolved oxygen levels than non-wetland (exposed) areas. Nile perch (8.6-42.2 cm, TL) were 3.7 times more abundant in offshore exposed areas than in inshore areas near wetland ecotones, and the proportion of Nile perch using wetland and exposed areas was independent of their body size. However, species richness was higher in waters at wetland ecotones than in exposed areas. Nile perch (5-35 cm, TL) exhibited a shift in diet at approximately 30 cm TL from feeding primarily on invertebrates to piscivory. Although the shift to piscivory occurred at approximately the same body size for Nile perch from both wetland and exposed habitats, the shift to piscivory was less abrupt in Nile perch captured near wetland ecotones. Nile perch from wetland areas consumed a greater diversity and a larger percentage of fish prey than those from exposed sites. However, the low abundance of Nile perch in wetland ecotones suggested that interaction between predator and prey in these areas is much reduced.