Inter-specific differences in invader and native fish functional responses illustrate neutral effects on prey but superior invader competitive ability

Lubabalo Mofu*, Josie South, Ryan J. Wasserman, Tatenda Dalu, Darragh J. Woodford, Jaimie T.A. Dick, Olaf L.F. Weyl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Inter-specific interactions are key factors in the structuring and functioning of ecological communities. Therefore, it is necessary to assess species interactions, such as predator–prey dynamics and competitive exclusion, within the context of continuing global species introductions. The aim of the present study was to assess ecological impacts and competitive exclusion dynamics involving co-occurring introduced and native fish species, using the multiple predator functional response (FR) approach. We use comparative FR analysis (resource uptake as a function of resource density) to assess inter-specific interactions between the invasive western mosquitofish Gambusia affinis and the native freshwater river goby Glossogobius callidus towards chironomid larvae. The FR was derived for each fish species as individuals and when in heterospecific pairings. Data from single individuals were used to predict the expected FR of individuals when in heterospecific multiple predator combinations. Expected FRs were then compared to the observed FRs of each predator in combination trials, enumerated using prey items in their gut contents. Both fish species displayed Type II FRs, however, in single fish trials, invasive mosquitofish had significantly higher FRs (curve asymptotes; i.e. shorter handling times and higher maximum feeding rates) than native river gobies. Heterospecific mosquitofish-river goby combinations revealed that the FR of the river goby was reduced (i.e. longer handling times and lower maximum feeding rates) by the presence of mosquitofish, whereas this combination greatly enhanced mosquitofish FR magnitudes (i.e. shorter handling times and higher maximum feeding rates). The heterospecific treatments resulted in neutral impacts on prey and there were clear inter-species interference in favour of the non-native mosquitofish. This study demonstrates how multiple predators can alter the shape of individual FRs, with neutral effects on prey but superior invader competitive ability. This has implications for predicting the naturalisation success of invasive predators, as predatory and competitive interactions with native predators and prey may facilitate rather than impede establishment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1655-1663
Number of pages9
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number9
Early online date15 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study forms part of a PhD research project supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Research Foundation (NRF) Professional Development Programme (Grant No. 101039), the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology and the DST/NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative (Inland Fisheries and Freshwater Ecology, Grant No. 110507) and NRF incentive funding (Grant Nos. 109015 to O.L.F.W., 103581 to D.J.W. and 88746 to R.J.W.). We acknowledge use of infrastructure and equipment provided by the NRF-SAIAB Research Platform and the funding channelled through the NRF-SAIAB Institutional Support system. Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs (DEDEA) is thanked for issuing research permits. We also acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for their formative comments. Any opinion, finding and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the authors. Consequently, the National Research Foundation of South Africa does not accept any liability in this regard.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • competition
  • fish
  • gut content
  • multi-predator effects
  • predator–prey dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

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