• black mangrove cichlid;
  • Cichlidae;
  • maturity;
  • Mozambique mouthbrooder;
  • spotted tilapia

The reproductive biology of two invasive tilapia species, Oreochromis mossambicus and Tilapia mariae, resident in freshwater habitats in north-eastern Australia was investigated. Oreochromis mossambicus exhibited plasticity in some of its life-history characteristics that enhanced its ability to occupy a range of habitats. These included a shallow, weed-choked, freshwater coastal drain that was subject to temperature and dissolved oxygen extremes and water-level fluctuations to cooler, relatively high-altitude impoundments. Adaptations to harsher conditions included a decreased total length (LT) and age (A) at 50% maturity (m50), short somatic growth intervals, early maturation and higher relative fecundities. Potential fecundity in both species was relatively low, but parental care ensured high survival rates of both eggs and larvae. No significant difference in the relative fecundity of T. mariae populations in a large impoundment and a coastal river was found, but there were significant differences in relative fecundities between several of the O. mossambicus populations sampled. Total length (LT) and age at 50% maturity of O. mossambicus populations varied considerably depending on habitat. The LTm50 and Am50 values for male and female O. mossambicus in a large impoundment were considerably greater than for those resident in a small coastal drain. Monthly gonad developmental stages and gonado-somatic indices suggested that in coastal areas, spawning of O. mossambicus and T. mariae occurred throughout most of the year while in cooler, high-altitude impoundments, spawning peaked in the warmer, summer months. The contribution these reproductive characteristics make to the success of both species as colonizers is discussed in the context of future control and management options for tilapia incursions in Australia.