Is resource partitioning the key? The role of intra-interspecific variation in coexistence among five small endemic fish species (Characidae) in subtropical rivers.J Fish Biol 2018; 93(2):238-249JF
This study focused on intra and interspecific variations in the diet of small species in the Pelotas River, upper Uruguay River ecoregion. We tested the hypothesis that five small characids coexist via resource partitioning. Samplings were performed quarterly between August 2013 and May 2014 at 14 sites in the Pelotas River basin, using gillnets of different mesh sizes, seines, cast nets and electrofishing. In this study, the contents of 1,253 stomachs were analysed from Astyanax dissensus, A. paris, A. saguazu, A. xiru and Bryconamericus patriciae. The main food resources consumed were aquatic insects, leaves, seeds and detritus. There were significant seasonal intra and interspecific variations in the use of food resources by the five species. Permutational analysis of multivariate dispersions results indicated significant differences in individual intraspecific variability between the sampled periods, with the highest values found in November and February because of an increase in allochthonous resources (leaves and seeds). Besides this, significant differences in the proportions of consumption of allochthonous and autochthonous were observed. The trophic niche breadth was significantly different among the species, such that in August, the species had narrower niche breadths. In the other periods, the highest niche breadth values were due to an increase in the consumption of allochthonous items. Diet overlap was low (< 0.4) between 62% of the species pairs. The small characid species showed pronounced changes in resource use and intra and interspecific variations indicating resource partitioning. These factors appear to be essential in species interactions and for coexistence.