Non-native suckermouth armored catfishes (Loricariidae) of the genus Pterygoplichthys are now common throughout much of peninsular Florida. In this paper, we present preliminary observations on interactions between a Pterygoplichthys species, tentatively identified as P. disjunctivus (Weber, 1991), and endangered native Florida manatees, Trichechus manatus latirostris (Harlan, 1824), in artesian spring systems in Florida's St. Johns River drainage. The introduced catfish have become abundant in spring habitats, sites used by manatees as winter thermal refuges. In the spring runs, Pterygoplichthys regularly attaches to manatees and grazes the epibiota on their skin. On occasion, dozens of Pterygoplichthys congregate on individual manatees. Manatee responses varied widely; some did not react visibly to attached catfish whereas others appeared agitated and attempted to dislodge the fish. The costs and/or benefits of this interaction to manatees remain unclear.
Additional publication details
Interactions between non-native armored suckermouth catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys) and native Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in artesian springs