African Journal of Aquatic Science

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Evidence for diet partitioning among three coexisting native freshwater fishes in South Africa’s Cape Fold Ecoregion

J.M. Shelton, M.S. Bird, S.M. Marr


The partitioning of limited resources commonly explains how different species can coexist within the same ecological community. In this 2010 study, the diets of three coexisting freshwater fishes (Cape galaxias Galaxias zebratus, n = 27; Cape kurper Sandelia capensis, n = 60; Breede River redfin Pseudobarbus burchelli, n = 77) were characterised and compared in three headwater streams in South Africa’s Cape Fold Ecoregion using gut contents and stable isotope analyses. These data were analysed to ascertain whether the three species exploit distinct trophic niches. Both approaches provided evidence that these species occupy different trophic niches, though with some overlap. However, dietary differences among sites were not consistent and were probably influenced by site-specific factors like resource availability. Pseudobarbus burchelli had a broader niche breadth at Tierkloof Stream than the other two species, but not at Waaihoek or Tierstel Streams. Our results also suggest that P. burchelli consumed a more omnivorous diet than do the other two species, whereas S. capensis occupied a higher trophic position than the other two species and consumed vertebrates. Our findings suggest that these species occupy non-equivalent feeding niches in Cape Fold Ecoregion headwater streams, and that diet partitioning might facilitate their coexistence in these systems.

Keywords: gut contents, headwater stream, resource partitioning, stable isotopes, trophic niche overlap
AJOL African Journals Online