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Diet overlap and feeding preference of Oreochromis niloticus (Linnaeus, 1758) versus two native cichlids of the upper Kabompo River, northwest of Zambia.
  • Arthertone Jere
Arthertone Jere
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources Faculty of Natural Resources

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Evaluating the food and feeding habits of fish is fundamental in fisheries and conservation biology research. In this study, the diet of exotic Oreochromis niloticus was compared with the 2 most abundant and aquaculture preferred native cichlids of native species (Orochromis macrochir and Coptodon rendalli) in the upper Kabompo River, Zambia. We hypothesized that exotic and native cichlids would show no dietary niche overlap. We analyzed the stomach contents of 114 specimens of the fishes sampled. Fishes were grouped into 3 major feeding groups: microphages, macrophages and carnivores, and omnivores. They were also grouped into size classes of <50, 51−100, 101−150, and 151−302 mm total length (TL). O. niloticus had a larger dietary niche than two native species (71% and 22%, respectively). The dietary niche overlap between O. niloticus and native C. rendalli species in size classes <50 was significant (F (2, 45) = 0.084, p < 0.05). Dietary niche overlap between the native O. macrochir species in size class <50 mm was low (F (2, 33) = 2.13, p > 0.05), while as in size classes 51−100 mm and 101−150 mm was high (F (2, 35) = 0.27, p < 0.05) for C. rendalli. There was no clear evidence of ontogenetic diet shift of native cichlids, with the exception of O. macrochir, which showed ontogenetic diet shifts within the 51−100 mm size class. The dietary overlap results indicate interspecific competition between exotic O. niloticus and native O. macrochir, which may have major impacts on food web structure in the upper Kabompo River and may explain population decreases of some native species.