Caudal fin-nipping by Serrasalmus maculatus (Characiformes: Serrasalmidae) in a small water reservoir: seasonal variation and prey selection
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We evaluated how seasonality affects the frequency and intensity of fin-nipping, as well as the fish prey preferences of Serrasalmus maculatus Kner, 1858. The study took place in a small reservoir of the Ribeirao Claro River basin, state of Sao Paulo, southeastern Brazil. Fish were sampled monthly from July 2003 to June 2004, using gillnets. Sampling consisted of leaving 50 m of gillnets in the water for approximately 24 hours each month. No seasonal variation in the frequency and intensity of fin-nipping was observed. Among six prey species, piranhas displayed less damage in their fins, possibly due to intraspecific recognition. Under natural conditions, the caudal fins of Cyphocharax modestus (Fernandez-Yepez, 1948) were the most intensively mutilated, which suggests multiple attacks on the same individual. The size of individuals in this species was positively correlated with the mutilated area of the fin, whereas no such correlation was observed for Astyanax altiparanae Garutti & Britski, 2000 and Acestrorhynchus lacustris (Lutken, 1875). The high number of mutilated fish under natural conditions strongly suggests that the relationship between S. maculatus and its prey is more akin to parasitism than to predation. If mutilated fins negatively affect the ability of prey to swim, the spread of S. maculatus might result in an unnatural impact on prey fish assemblages and population structure after damming.