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Habitat associations, reproduction and diet of the Guinean tilapia Tilapia guineensis of the Gambia River floodplains


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The ecology of the Guinean tilapia Tilapia guineensis a dominant species of the lower Gambia River floodplains and an important food source in parts of West Africa was studied to better understand the threat posed from construction of a barrage across the river. The catch per unit effort (CPUE) of T. guineensis was positively associated with conductivity and dissolved oxygen and negatively associated with water depth and the % vegetation cover. Diet studies indicated that the T. guineensis is primarily an iliophage. The peak of reproduction was at the beginning of the rainy season. CPUE peaked in May, just before the first rains, and subsequently declined, probably reflecting movement into newly flooded habitat. Median size at maturity was 11·6 cm total length, LT, for females and 12·5 cm LT for males. LT-frequency analysis indicated several juvenile cohorts as well as very young fish on the floodplains each month, suggesting continuation of reproduction throughout the rainy season. The impending construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Gambia River is likely to affect T. guineensis negatively through anticipated changes in the hydrology of the river.