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

Taking advantage of adaptations when managing threatened species within variable environments: the case of the dwarf galaxias, Galaxiella pusilla (Teleostei, Galaxiidae)

R. A. Coleman A B D , T. A. Raadik C , V. Pettigrove A B and A. A. Hoffmann A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Victorian Centre for Aquatic Pollution Identification and Management, Bio21 Institute, School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.

B Melbourne Water Corporation, Docklands, Vic. 3008, Australia,

C Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Heidelberg, Vic. 3084, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: rhys.coleman@melbournewater.com.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(1) 175-186 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15332
Submitted: 27 August 2015  Accepted: 12 January 2016   Published: 18 March 2016

Abstract

Native fish are threatened globally by invasive species, and management actions largely focus on detecting and eradicating invaders before they become established. However, once established, invaders might also be controlled by taking advantage of adaptations of threatened species to local conditions. This strategy was explored in dwarf galaxias (Galaxiella pusilla) a freshwater-dependent species of national conservation significance in Australia, threatened by invasive eastern gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki). Most habitats occupied by G. pusilla experience a seasonally variable and unpredictable hydrologic regime, where water levels substantially contract during dry periods and expand during wet periods. It was hypothesised that they are likely to have developed adaptations to surviving in these habitats by persisting without surface water. In contrast to G. holbrooki, we found that G. pusilla could withstand longer periods without surface water, including air breathing and higher respiration rates in air, than could G. holbrooki. We showed, within a single G. pusilla population, large inter-annual variability in fish densities linked to natural wetting and drying regimes. These findings indicate that periodic drying provides a way of protecting G. pusilla in water bodies where G. holbrooki has invaded, representing a strategy that takes advantage of local adaptation and metapopulation structure of G. pusilla.

Additional keywords: air breathing, behavioural adaptation, Gambusia holbrooki, invasive, metapopulation, physiological adaptation.


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