Temporal patterns of resource partitioning among Cichla species in a Venezuelan blackwater river.
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In channel and floodplain habitats of the Cinaruco River, Venezuela, Cichla temensis was more abundant and larger than C. intermedia and C. orinocensis. Seasonal variation in hydrology influenced habitat use, spawning, and predator-prey interactions. The three piscivores partitioned habitat, with C. intermedia showing a strong affinity for structured habitats in the main channel during all water level fluctuations. C. orinocensis was most abundant in shallow areas with submerged structure in lagoons and, to a lesser extent, in low velocity regions of the channel, and C. temensis occupied a wide range of lotic and lentic habitats. During the low-water period, the feeding frequency and body condition of all three species declined, and this was related, in part, to preparation for spawning near the end of the low-water season. The diet of C. intermedia was least similar to its two congeners during falling and rising water. C. orinocensis and C. temensis had lowest diet overlap during the low-water conditions, the period when many individuals of these two species move into lagoons for nesting. Prey in stomachs were significantly larger during the falling-water than the rising-water period, and predation by Cichla and other large piscivores during the falling-water period may have reduced the abundance of large prey, particularly Semaprochilodus kneri. These migratory detritivorous fish were important prey for C. temensis during the falling-water period and probably contributed a substantial fraction of the annual energy intake for this species. Together, the three Cichla species consume a wide spectrum of prey from a diverse fish assemblage, but prey are subdivided based on habitat, prey type, and season.