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Keywords:

  • Cnesterodon decemmaculatus;
  • feeding preference;
  • zooplankton;
  • biological control

ABSTRACT:

We analyzed the feeding preference of Cnesterodon decemmaculatus, a small-bodied poecilid native from the Rio de la Plata and proximate Atlantic Basins in South America. This species has a wide distribution in Uruguayan water bodies but its effectiveness as a predator of mosquito larvae has not been tested. In laboratory trials, five aquatic invertebrates were offered simultaneously as potential prey to fish: Daphnia pulex (Cladocera), copepods, two different instars of mosquito larvae (Culex pipiens), and the 4th instar of Chironomidae larvae. Preference was measured by the Chesson's electivity index (α). In order to determine differences in prey preference according to fish size, individuals ranging from 9.5 mm to 35.3 mm were classified in three different body size classes: small, medium, and large. Small fish showed preference for copepods, while medium-sized fish preferred the smallest mosquito larvae instars and Chironomidae larvae. We conclude that C. decemmaculatus is a zooplankton facultative-feeder fish that prefers large-bodied zooplankton but is a weak predator of mosquito larvae. Thus, the introduction of C. decemmaculatus as a biological-control agent in natural environments is not an effective strategy.