Habitat preferences and movement of adult yellowfishes in the Vaal River, South Africa
Keywords:Vaal River, yellowfish, habitat, movement, radio telemetry
The yellowfishes of the Vaal River (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis and L. aeneus) are charismatic, socially and economically important fishes, but very little is known about their interspecies habitat preferences and movement. This study is the first behavioural study of yellowfish in the Vaal River using radio transmitters to characterise habitat preferences and movement patterns. A total of 22 adult L. kimberleyensis and 13 adult L. aeneus individuals were tracked for between 1 month and 1 year from 23 September 2006 to 16 May 2010. Radio telemetry revealed that yellowfish established routine daily behavioural patterns through which the habitat preferences and movement of the species could be established. Home ranges of the yellowfish ranged from 1 km to more than 12 km in the Vaal River depending on the species and habitat availability. Habitat preferences varied between species and included deep slow-flowing habitats with associated cover features particularly in winter for L. kimberleyensis and shallow fast-flowing habitats particularly for L. aeneus in spring, summer and autumn. Changes in flows, habitat availability and atmospheric pressure affected the movement of yellowfish. The biology and ecology of the yellowfish in the Vaal River is noticeably more complicated and dynamic than previously documented. We recommend that the behavioural ecology of these and other yellowfish populations in the Vaal River should continue to be characterised, and the use of the movement of yellowfish be developed as an indicator of ecosystem change.
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