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Competition and niche partitioning in a floodplain ecosystem: a cladoceran community squeezed between fish and invertebrate predation

Author(s): Markus Lindholm | Dag Olav Hessen

Journal: African Zoology
ISSN 1562-7020

Volume: 42;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Anisops sardea | Tilapia rendalli | cladocera | interspecific competition | niche partitioning.

Seasonal floodplains occasionally comprise highly productive zooplankton communitieswhich are exposed to rapid shifts in predator regimes, also between vertebrate and invertebratepredators.We recorded the impact of two co-occurring zooplankton predators, the notonectid Anisops sardea Ceriodaphnia reticulata (0.25–0.78 mm), Daphnia laevis and 0+ fish fry of Tilapia rendalli  (max gape size 1 mm), on a cladoceran community dominated by (0.6–1.8 mm) and Scapholeberis kingi  (0.27–0.8 mm). Both predators strongly reduced abundance of all prey species, yet with a striking size-selective effect for Daphnia prey only, where fish showed a strong preference for small individuals, while Anisops preferred large Daphnia individuals. This contrasts with the general view of size selection in invertebrate versus  vertebrate predators, but is logically caused by the feeding mode of the notonectid, and the gape size limitation of the fish fry. The two predators also showed a dietary niche differentiation in terms of both prey selection and habitat choice. T. rendalli fed preferably on small species and size classes, whereas predation from A. sardea concentrated on large prey. Competitive interference was indicated when feeding on Ceriodaphnia, and niche partitioning when feeding on the two other species. The predatory pattern suggests long-lasting coexistence in the system.
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