Variability of fish diets between dry and flood periods in an arid zone floodplain river

Authors

  • S. R. Balcombe,

    1. Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Centre for Riverine Landscapes, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia and
    2. Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia, 444 Albany Highway, Albany 6330, Western Australia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • S. E. Bunn,

    1. Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Centre for Riverine Landscapes, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia and
    Search for more papers by this author
  • F. J. McKenzie-Smith,

    1. Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Centre for Riverine Landscapes, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia and
    Search for more papers by this author
  • P. M. Davies

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author

‡Tel.: +61 7 38757308; fax: +61 7 38757615; email: s.balcombe@griffith.edu.au

Abstract

The fish assemblages of an arid zone floodplain river, Cooper Creek, Queensland, Australia, were sampled during two dry periods in isolated waterholes and on the inundated floodplain during the early and late phase of a major flood event. Diets were described for nine native species and compared within and between dry and flood periods. In the dry season, when fishes were restricted to waterholes, diets were characteristically simple with narrow diet breadths. Movement onto the floodplain during flooding clearly increased feeding opportunities, with greater diet breadths evident in all species. Despite obvious potential for terrestrial inputs, diets tended to be dominated by aquatic resources in both the waterholes and on the floodplain. Stomach fullness, however, varied little between dry season waterhole and floodplain samples. Fishes appeared to feed on potentially lower value resources such as detritus and calanoid copepods during the dry season, when waterholes were isolated and food resources were limited. They were then able to capitalize on the ‘boom’ of aquatic production and more diverse food resources associated with episodic flood events.

Ancillary