Competitive interactions for food resources between invasive racer goby Babka gymnotrachelus and native European bullhead Cottus gobio

  • Kakareko T
  • Kobak J
  • Grabowska J
 et al. 
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Racer goby is one of several Ponto– Caspian gobiids spreading throughout European rivers and concurrent with recent declines in threatened populations of a native species of similar biology, the European bullhead. Although suggestive of competitive interactions, evidence thereof is scarce, so we examined behavioural interactions between racer goby and bullhead (single specimens of each species together, also pairs of each species) under experimental conditions (shared space with two shelters) to determine whether the invader displaces the native species when food resources are limited. Food (live chironomids) was added to a single feeder at rates below satiation levels twice over 24 h (once in light and once in darkness), with fish behaviour (aggressive interactions: attacks and threatening) and feeding activity (time spent near or inside the feeder) recorded using video cameras and infrared illumination. Racer goby exhibited aggressive behaviour towards bullhead (mean = 2.5 aggressive events h-1), but rarely the inverse (threatening only, mean = 0.05 events h-1), significantly limiting bullhead foraging time (by 62 %) and being faster to reach food in the feeding time in 76 % of cases. Gobies were more aggressive during daylight (77 % of all aggressive events occurring in light), and both species spent more time on feeding activities in darkness (88 and 66 % of all time spent in the feeder by bullheads and gobies, respectively). However, the adverse impact of goby on bullhead was independent of light conditions. Our results suggest that under natural conditions, racer goby are likely to displace bullhead during feeding, with potential consequences for foraging efficiency.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Interspecific competition
  • Non-native species
  • Ponto-Caspian gobiids

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