Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 4, pp 569–580 | Cite as

Species co-occurrence and population dynamics in annual fish assemblages in the lower Río Uruguay basin

  • Daniel García
  • Marcelo Loureiro
  • Emanuel Machín
  • Martin ReichardEmail author


Austrolebias is a genus of annual killifishes from subtropical and temperate grasslands of South America. They coexist in assemblages of up to five species in pools with variable connection to permanent water bodies and complete their entire life cycle within 1 year, terminated by summer desiccation of their habitat. To quantify community and population characteristics of Austrolebias assemblages, we sampled a set of 18 pools in the lowlands of the confluence of Río Negro and Río Uruguay in western Uruguay, with 16 sampling trips conducted over the entire seasonal cycle in 2015. Austrolebias bellottii was a ubiquitous and generalist species, A. nigripinnis was more common in pools influenced by active floodplain, A. elongatus (a large predatory species) was rare overall, and four A. alexandri was found only in two pools. Unexpectedly, many pools desiccated in winter (mid season) and some of them supported a second cohort after their re-inundation. Fish abundance and fish density declined steadily prior to pool desiccations. There were indications that adult A. bellottii can survive a short period of habitat desiccation in wet mud, leading to coexistence of an older A. bellottii cohort with a younger A. nigripinnis cohort. Males disappeared from populations at a higher rate, especially towards the end of the season. The overall lifespan of both common species was up to 7 months in pools that did not experience mid-season desiccation. This study provides fundamental demographic parameters for the annual fish in this region.


Annual fish Community assembly Cyprinodontiformes Seasonal dynamics Sex ratio 



Financial support came from Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación (ANII, FCE_2013_100380) to DG and Comisión Sectorial de Investigación Científica (CSIC I + D 2014_7) to ML. DG holds a PhD scholarship from Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación (ANII, POS_NAC_2014_102280) and from CAP (Comisión Académica de Posgrado, UdelaR). DG and ML belongs to Sistema Nacional de Investigadores of Uruguay. MR was supported by Czech Science Foundation (P505/12/G112). All local and national legal and ethical guidelines were followed. The research was approved under reference number 240011-001885-13. We thank Patricia Magariños, Diego Díaz, Esteban Ortiz, Matej Polačik, Radim Blažek and Milan Vrtílek for the help in the field and Rowena Spence for English correction and comments on the ms. We thank local land owners for access on their properties, and local authorities of Villa Soriano for generous support of the project.

Supplementary material

10641_2019_854_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.5 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1498 kb)
10641_2019_854_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (1.4 mb)
ESM 2 (PDF 1476 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología y Evolución, Instituto de Biología, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.The Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate BiologyBrnoCzech Republic

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