a1 Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Av. Rivadavia 1917, (1033) Buenos Aires, Argentina
a2 Laboratorio de Investigaciones en Ecología y Sistemática Animal (LIESA), Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia, Ruta 259 km. 5, Planta de Aromáticas, 9200 Esquel, Chubut, Argentina
a3 Instituto Antártico Argentino, Cerrito 1248, (1010) Buenos Aires, Argentina
The diet composition and feeding strategy of native and exotic fish species were studied from May 2005 to February 2006 in three Patagonian low-order streams. A total of 464 fish were caught, which belonged to the exotic species Oncorhynchus mykiss (270), Salmo trutta (177) and the native species Hatcheria macraei (17). The analysis of 336 stomach contents indicated that at the individual level, the three species had a generalized feeding strategy based on benthic invertebrates (Plecoptera, Trichoptera, Coleoptera and Diptera). In the three streams, the widest population niches were observed in winter. There was, however, also a slight tendency toward an increased between-phenotype contribution to the niche width in same season, indicating that a small proportion of individuals within the fish populations specialized by predominantly feeding on a few specific prey species. Hence, the wide population niche widths observed throughout the year were partly a result of mixed individual feeding strategies within the populations. The higher diet overlaps were registered between exotics O. mykiss–S. trutta at Glyn and Carbón, and O. mykiss and the native H. macraei at Manguera, but it changed markedly through the year, perhaps depending on temporal changes in food availability suggesting a competitive coexistence of these species. This is mainly related to the fact that both species changed their food preferences in spring and foraged almost exclusively on Aubertoperla illiesi. This implies that in order to reduce the predation risk or the inter-specific competition for food, the fish species might partition the feeding habitats.
(Received December 13 2010)
(Accepted July 28 2011)
(Online publication February 22 2012)