Do exotic poeciliids affect the distribution or trophic niche of native fishes? Absence of evidence from Hong Kong streams

Alphonse Hin Fat TSANG*, David DUDGEON

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Exotic poeciliids have been reported to reduce abundance and richness of native fishes and, more generally, constrain the trophic niches of native counterparts. However, understanding of the consequences of poeciliids on native fishes in tropical streams is limited. 

We conducted a survey of lowland streams in Hong Kong during 2018–19 to document the prevalence of poeciliids and look for signs that they had affected the distribution of native fishes. Overall, 31 native and 15 exotic fishes were recorded during the survey. Exotics occurred at 37 out of 45 survey sites, with poeciliids present at 35 sites. Richness of poeciliids or other exotic fishes had no correlation with the number of native species at each site. Moreover, native fish assemblages appeared unaffected by poeciliids, which might reflect a legacy of stream pollution. 

By comparing nine streams where the presence and composition of poeciliids varied, we investigated whether the mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) alone, and in combination with the guppy (Poecilia reticulata), swordtail (Xiphophorus hellerii), and variable platy (Xiphophorus variatus), affected the trophic niche of native half-banded barb (Puntius semifasciolatus: Cyprinidae) which has a similar body size to the poeciliids, as quantified by gut content and stable-isotope analysis. We also tested whether the trophic niche of the mosquitofish was affected by the three other poeciliids. 

Gut-content analysis indicated that the half-handed barb fed on aquatic invertebrates, while the mosquitofish ate mainly terrestrial insects. The three other poeciliids were predominately primary consumers. 

The mosquitofish, alone or in combination with other poeciliids, had no detectable effects on the dietary or isotopic niche of the barb, nor was the niche of the mosquitofish influenced by the presence of other poeciliids. Limited dietary overlap and differences in microhabitat use were likely to account for the absence of a detectable niche shift by the barb where poeciliids were present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1751-1764
Number of pages14
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number9
Early online date9 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Lily Ng, Sum Leung, and Maria Lo for providing technical support, and Jiahuan Liew and Ken So for statistical advice. We also thank Lag Wan, Sunny Tang, and Tommy Hui for field assistance. This project was funded by the University of Hong Kong and the authors declare that a permit was obtained from the local government for collection of animals in the wild ((47) AF GR CON 11/17 Pt.6).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • biological invasion
  • Gambusia
  • Puntius
  • stable-isotope signature
  • tropical


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