Trophic shifts in a native predator following the introduction of a top predator in a tropical lake

  • Marisol P. ValverdeEmail author
  • Diana M. T. Sharpe
  • Mark E. Torchin
  • David G. Buck
  • Lauren J. Chapman
Original Paper


Some of the most dramatic and well-studied impacts of introduced predators involve their ecological effects on native prey communities. However, how native predators respond to introduced predators has received less attention. Here, we examined the potential impacts of an introduced predatory fish (Cichla monoculus, the peacock bass) on the diet and trophic ecology of a native predator (Hoplias microlepis) in Lake Gatun, Panama. We used stomach content analysis and stable isotope analysis to quantify the dietary niche of both species in sympatry, and of the native predator in the presence vs. absence of the peacock bass. We found that in the presence of the peacock bass, H. microlepis had a more diverse diet and a wider (five-fold) isotopic niche, relative to where it occurred alone. Specifically, H. microlepis, which were predominantly piscivorous in the absence of peacock bass, broadened their diet in the invaded Lake Gatun to include invertebrates and scavenged fish, the latter comprising 26% of its diet. Scavenged fish consisted of C. monoculus and Oreochromis niloticus (Nile tilapia) remains, both heavily harvested, non-native species in Lake Gatun, whose scraps are often thrown back into the lake by fishers. We suspect that these human-mediated food subsidies may lead to indirect facilitative interactions between introduced and native species in this system.


Invasive species Lake Gatun Cichla monoculus Competition Facilitation Human food subsidies 



We would like to thank V. Bravo, R. González, C. Schloeder and J. Pereira for their invaluable field and laboratory assistance. We are grateful to the fishing communities of Cuipo, Gamboa, La Laguna, Emberá-Wounan, and Bayano for their extraordinary help in the field. We would also like to thank the staff in STRI’s Naos Laboratories, particularly C. Bonilla, for their logistical support. We thank the Associate Editor and two anonymous reviewers whose constructive feedback greatly improved this manuscript. This work was supported by CONACyT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, M.Sc. Fellowship to MPV), McGill University Department of Biology (NEO/BESS programs), Quebec Center for Biodiversity Science (QCBS, Excellence Award to MPV), STRI (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), and Canada Research Chair funds to LJC.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving animals

Our field sampling and handling of live organisms complied with Panama’s Ministerio del Ambiente (Permit # SE/AP-40-15) and STRI’s Institutional Animal Care Committee (Protocol # 2016-0224-2019).

Supplementary material

10530_2019_2119_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1629 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Naos LaboratoriesSmithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanama CityPanama
  3. 3.Shoals Marine LaboratoryUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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