Loricariid catfishes of the genus Pterygoplichthys are native to South America and have been introduced in many localities around the world. They are freshwater fishes, but may also use low-salinity habitats such as estuaries for feeding or dispersal. Here we report results of a field survey and salinity-tolerance experiments for a population of Pterygoplichthys sp. collected in Kerala, India. In both chronic and acute salinity-tolerance trials, fish were able to withstand salinities up to 12 ppt with no mortality; however, fish transferred to salinities > 12 ppt did not survive. The experimental results provide evidence that nonnative Pterygoplichthys sp. are able to tolerate mesohaline conditions for extended periods, and can easily invade the brackish water ecosystems of the state. Further, Pterygoplichthys sp. from Kerala have greater salinity tolerance than other congeners. These data are vital to predicting the invasion of non-native fishes such as Pterygoplichthys spp. into coastal systems in Kerala and worldwide. This is particularly important as estuarine ecosystems are under threat of global climate change and sea-level rise. In light of the results of the present study and considering the reports of negative impacts of the species in invaded water bodies, management authorities may consider controlling populations and/or instituting awareness programmes to prevent the spread of this nuisance aquatic invasive species in Kerala.
Additional publication details
Salinity tolerance of non-native suckermouth armoured catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys sp.) from Kerala, India