Ground-truthing the impact of invasive species: spatio-temporal overlap between native least chub and introduced western mosquitofish


invasive fish, Cyprinidae, mosquitofish, spatio-temporal overlap, wetlands


Western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) are one of the most destructive introduced species in the American West. The negative impact of introduced species on native taxa depends on their spatio-temporal overlap, which will determine the availability of refugia for native species. Experiments on the mechanisms underlying the interactions between introduced and native species rarely address habitat use, overlap, and refugia because individuals are confined to enclosures. In a previous study we used cages, microcosms, and aquaria to show that mosquitofish could prey on and out-compete native least chub (Iotichthys phlegethontis). In this study, we examined the spatio-temporal overlap between mosquitofish and least chub under natural conditions. We found periods of overlap and partitioning in the seasonal and diel habitat use of these species. Both species used shallow habitats during the day and night throughout the spring when least chub were spawning. Predation by adult mosquitofish on young least chub during the spring likely explains the reduction in least chub recruitment in the presence of mosquitofish. During the summer least chub avoided mosquitofish by exclusively using cooler habitats, or by occupying deeper, cooler habitats during the day when mosquitofish were active, and shallower, warmer habitats at night when mosquitofish were inactive. A shift to cooler habitats in the presence of mosquitofish may result in decreased growth and fecundity of least chub. However, we suggest that a reduction of warm shallow habitat may have a disproportionately greater negative impact on mosquitofish than species native to temperate regions, such as least chub. Habitat manipulations that reduce or eliminate warm habitats may ameliorate the harmful effects of mosquitofish and promote the long-term persistence of native taxa.

Original Publication Citation

Ayala, J.R., Rader, R.B., Belk, M.C., and Schaalje, G.B. 2007. Ground-truthing the impact of invasive species: spatio-temporal overlap between native least chub and introduced western mosquitofish. Biological Invasions 9:857-869.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Biological Invasions




Life Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor