Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 1105–1119 | Cite as

Strategies of resource partitioning between two sympatric puffer fishes in a tropical hypersaline estuary, Brazil

  • Caroline Stefani da Silva Lima
  • Fernando José König Clark
  • Natalice Santos Sales
  • André Pessanha


The strategies of food partitioning among two abundant estuarine puffer fishes, Sphoeroides greeleyi (Gilbert, 1900) and Sphoeroides testudineus (Linnaeus, 1758), were investigated in a tropical hypersaline estuary. We examined the stomachs of 946 fishes collected with a beach seine across three zones (upper, middle and lower estuary) along with a salinity gradient. The highest abundances of species were recorded in the upper and middle estuary. The diet was comprised mostly by benthic organisms, mainly Bivalvia, Gastropoda, and Brachyura. However, in a hypersaline estuary, these species develop strategies of resource partitioning in three ways: 1) asymmetry effects; 2) habitat selection; and 3) trade-offs among age classes. Diet variations according to fish age classes indicated that the largest individuals showed a decrease in their consumption of small preys (Amphipods, Copepods, and Ceratopogonidae) and an increase in their consumption of larger preys (Bivalvia and Decapoda). This behavior of switching diet towards larger prey was related to the functional trade-offs in swimming capacity, and feeding mode used to capture prey. The middle and upper estuary are important feeding grounds for puffer fishes, as demonstrated by their influence on prey distributions and habitat type. Diet breadth indicated that S. greeleyi tended to be a generalist, whereas S. testudineus tended to be a specialist. Thus, the strategies of partitioning seem to have importance for puffer fish populations in this hypersaline environment.


Estuarine fishes Feeding ecology Diet breadth Trade-offs Northeastern Brazil 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidade Estadual da Paraíba, Laboratório de Ecologia de PeixesCampina GrandeBrazil

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