1. Salinity tolerance is one of several important physiological attributes that determine invasion success and the pattern of dispersal of introduced aquatic organisms. Introduced freshwater fishes able to tolerate elevated salinities have the potential to invade and exploit brackish-water (mixohaline) environments and use estuaries and coastal waters as 'bridges' for dispersing from one coastal river system to another. 2. Several members of the neotropical suckermouth armoured catfish genus Pterygoplichthys (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) have established non-native populations in inland waters of North and Central America, Asia and islands in the Caribbean, and Pacific and Indian oceans. Loricariids are generally considered to be strictly freshwater; but a few naturally occur in mesohaline habitats. 3.Catch and habitat data from 2004–2005 and 2009–2011 fish surveys in the Grijalva–Usumacinta River delta region (south-eastern Mexico) confirmed that introduced Pterygoplichthys populations established in upstream freshwater sites (where these catfish are abundant) have recently dispersed into downstream oligohaline and mesohaline estuarine habitats. During 2009–2011 surveys, these non-native catfish — tentatively identified as P. pardalis or its hybrids — were found in sites with salinities ranging from 1 to 8 ppt (mean 5.2 ppt). 4.Acute-salinity experiments were conducted with Pterygoplichthys (110–302 mm standard length, N=140) captured in the Grijalva–Usumacinta Basin to determine upper salinity tolerance levels. Tests demonstrated that individuals maintained in salinities of 0.2 ppt were able to survive abrupt (acute) exposure to salinities up to 10 ppt with little mortality over 10 days (240 h experimental endpoint). A few individuals survived abrupt exposure to 11 and 12 ppt for 20 or more hours, although none survived more than a few hours at 16 ppt or greater. 5.These field and experimental results provide quantitative evidence that non-native Pterygoplichthys are physiologically capable of surviving mesohaline conditions for extended periods and that non-native populations in Mexico are invading and presumably exploiting estuarine and other coastal environments, perhaps as feeding areas and potentially as dispersal routes.