Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Food resource variability in an Australian dryland river: evidence from the diet of two generalist native fish species

David Sternberg A C , Stephen Balcombe A , Jonathan Marshall B and Jaye Lobegeiger B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Australian Rivers Institute and eWater Cooperative Research Centre, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia.

B Department of Natural Resources and Water and eWater Cooperative Research Centre, 120 Meiers Road, Indooroopilly, Queensland, 4068, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: d.sternberg@griffith.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 59(2) 137-144 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF07125
Submitted: 2 July 2007  Accepted: 7 January 2008   Published: 27 February 2008

Abstract

To examine how food resource availability links with natural variation in primary productivity in the Moonie River, south-west Queensland, the diets of two native Australian fish species (Nematalosa erebi and Macquaria ambigua) were examined from fifteen waterholes in February, May and September 2006. N. erebi diets reflected strong ‘boom and bust’ patterns of food consumption, with high concentrations of benthic (non-filamentous) algae during boom (flow) times, moving to higher concentrations of filamentous algae and detritus during bust (no flow) periods. M. ambigua diets were primarily dominated by aquatic insects in all sampling periods. Although there was no clear ‘boom to bust’ pattern in relation to flow, M. ambigua secondary prey consumption revealed a compensatory switch between high energy prey (crustaceans) during more productive periods with terrestrial insects during less productive periods. The ability of both species of fish to switch from high to low concentrations of food quality under a variable environmental background allows them to persist through both high productive and low productive periods. This interaction between native biota and variable ‘boom’ and ‘bust’ conditions, and how changes to the natural hydrology will affect it is an important consideration of any future water resource development plans.

Keywords: dryland rivers, generalist feeding behaviour, Murray–Darling Basin, stomach contents.


Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Diana Ly, Sharon Marshall, Tariq Khan, Louisa Davis, Andrea Prior, Annette Ritchie and Joanna Blessing for providing support in the field and laboratory. Thanks also to the landholders for providing access to the waterholes on their properties. Our research was conducted under the Queensland Fisheries Permit PRM00157K and Griffith University Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee permit AES/14/05/AEC.


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