Patterns of variation in life history among South American fishes in seasonal environments.
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Ten traits related to life history theory were measured or estimated for 71 freshwater fish species from two locations in the Venezuelan llanos. Multivariate statistics and cluster analysis revealed three basic endpoint patterns bounding a two-dimensional continuum. A suite of attributes associated with parental care and aseasonal reproduction appeared to correspond to an equilibrium strategy. A second group of small fishes was distinguished by traits associated with rapid colonizing ability: early maturation, continuous reproduction, and small clutches. The third basic pattern was associated with synchronized reproduction during the early wet season, high fecundity, absence of parental care, and breeding migrations. A subset of mostly small fishes exhibiting little or no parental care, small clutches, and two to four month reproductive seasons was intermediate between the opportunistic (rapidly colonizing) and seasonal strategies. All ten life history variables showed significant effects of phylogeny. The cluster of species corresponding to the equilibrium group was dominated by siluriform fishes and perciforms of the Cichlidae. The opportunistic cluster was dominated by cyprinodontiform and characiform fishes, whereas the seasonal cluster contained primarily characiform and siluriform fishes. Seven of nine traits were significantly correlated with body length. The three reproductive patterns are interpreted as being adaptative with respect to relative intensity and predictability of temporal and spatial variation in abiotic environmental parameters, food availability, and predation pressure.