Ecology of Phreatobius sanguijuela

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Ecology of Phreatobius sanguijuela

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Ohara, WM, ID da Costa & ML Fonseca, 2016. Behaviour, feeding habits and ecology of the blind catfish Phreatobius sanguijuela (Ostariophysi: Siluriformes). Journal pf Fish Biology doi: 10.1111/jfb.13037.

Abstract

The subterranean fish Phreatobius sanguijuela, originally described from Bolivia, was captured in different wells near São Francisco do Guaporé, Rondônia State, Brazil. Thirty wells were investigated in April and July 2012, and September 2013. These surveys resulted in the capture of 58 individuals from eight wells and comprised three to 14 individuals per well. The capture of the individuals allowed a detailed evaluation of their colours in life, behaviour in the field and in captivity, aspects of their biology, confirmation of the species identification and provided new diagnostic characteristics to distinguish between P. sanguijuela and Phreatobius dracunculus. Cannibalism, territorialism, agonistic interactions and phototaxis behaviour were not observed. Phreatobius sanguijuela exhibited cryptobiotic habits and two behaviours under stressful conditions. The analysis of stomach contents reveals that this species apparently feeds on invertebrates, almost exclusively on earthworms. The sex ratio was 1:1. The absence of opercular movement during the resting period associated with intense blood irrigation of the skin indicates a possible cutaneous respiration as an alternative form of gas exchange. Local people often mistake P. sanguijuela for helminths and have the habit of releasing non-native fishes into the wells or to use chemicals to eliminate them. The consequence of this habit for the conservation of the species requires further evaluation.
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