Several Pterygoplichthys species, members of the Neotropical catfish family Loricariidae, have been widely introduced outside their native ranges. In this paper, I present observations on the diel activity pattern of non-native Pterygoplichthys, tentatively identified as P. disjunctivus, with respect to their attachment and grazing on endangered Florida manatees, Trichechus manatus latirostris. The study was conducted in December 2009 at Volusia Blue Spring, an artesianal spring system in the St. Johns River basin, Florida (USA). Supplemented by information gathered during previous visits to the spring site, this study revealed that adult Pterygoplichthys are active throughout the diel period (day, twilight and night). However, juvenile Pterygoplichthys were largely nocturnal and only at night did they consistently join adults in attaching to manatees. The juveniles generally remain hidden during the day, probably responding to presence of diurnal predators, mainly birds. Differences in diel behaviors among different Pterygoplichthys size classes in Florida are consistent with published observations on loricariids inhabiting clearwater streams within their native ranges.
Additional publication details
Nocturnal and diurnal activity of armored suckermouth catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys) associated with wintering Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris)