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Survival strategies of sharptooth catfish Clarias gariepinus in desiccating pans in the northern Kruger National Park

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Author(s): B.C.W. Van der Waal

Journal: Koedoe : African Protected Area Conservation and Science
ISSN 0075-6458

Volume: 41;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 131;
Date: 1998;
Original page

Keywords: catfish | Clarias gariepinus | desiccation | survival strategies

ABSTRACT
Observations in drying out pans showed that small (26-37 cm) sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus) can hide at the bottom of small pools filled with sticky mud whereas larger fish stay afloat at the surface in larger pools with sloppy mud, where they easily become prey or succumb to heat stress. The inability of larger fish to keep down in the sloppy mud of up to 40 cm depth is the result of their large bulk and high density of the mud. This may indicate a survival advantage for smaller fish in the final dry-out phase of pools and is supported by the presence of only small fish remains in the last drying up pools of dry pans. Another adaptation of smaller fish includes the temporary congregation outside the water enabling concealment under dense vegetation as a means to escape adverse environmental conditions, including high water temperatures and avian predation. The advantage small fish have over larger catfish under these extreme conditions may explain why catfish are known to show a wide variation in growth rate under natural and aquaculture conditions.
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