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

Fish on the roof of the world: densities, habitats and trophic position of stone loaches (Triplophysa) in Tibetan streams

Dean Jacobsen A E , Søren Kock Laursen A , Ladislav Hamerlik B , Karen Moltesen A , Anders Michelsen C D and Kirsten Seestern Christoffersen A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Freshwater Biological Laboratory, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 4, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.

B Department of Biology and Ecology, Matthias Belius University, Tajovskeho 40, SK-97401 Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.

C Terrestrial Ecology Section, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.

D Center for Permafrost (CENPERM), University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, DK-1350 Copenhagen, Denmark.

E Corresponding author. Email: djacobsen@bio.ku.dk

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(1) 53-64 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15225
Submitted: 11 June 2015  Accepted: 10 November 2015   Published: 5 February 2016

Abstract

The fast increase in temperature on the Tibetan Plateau, with anticipated future changes in aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity, highlights the urgent need for ecological data on the sparsely studied Tibetan running waters. In the present study we surveyed eight Tibetan streams to obtain data on densities, feeding selectivity and trophic position of the stone loach Triplophysa. Benthic algae, detritus, macroinvertebrates and fish were quantified and collected for stable isotope and stomach content analysis. Triplophysa density (mean 0.70 individuals m–2, maximum 1.6 individuals m–2) decreased with altitude and increased with the percentage cover of fine substratum. Glacier-fed sites tended to have the lowest fish densities, whereas the highest densities were found near lakes. Mean fish length (4.1–9.6 cm) was positively related to the percentage cover of coarse substratum. Triplophysa was omnivorous, but the composition of the stomach contents varied greatly between sites and among individuals. Algal matter was ingested at most sites, but macroinvertebrates (Chironomidae, Baetidae and Simuliidae) dominated the ingestion (average 50–100%). The trophic position of Triplophysa, identified from δ15N (‰) of the biota, varied between 2.6 and 4.2 among localities (mean 3.6) and was inversely related to the biomass of benthic algae, but unrelated to quantities of other potential food sources.

Additional keywords: feeding selectivity, food web, high altitude, omnivory, stable isotope analysis, stream type.


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