Original Articles

ASPECTS OF THE ECOLOGY OF KNERIA AURICULATA (PELLEGRIN, 1905) (PISCES: KNERIIDAE) FROM THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL SOUTH AFRICA

DOI: 10.1080/03779688.1988.9632846
Author(s): C.J. KleynhansTransvaal Directorate of Nature Conservation, South Africa

Abstract

Seven natural populations of Kneria auriculata occur in tributaries of the Crocodile River (Incomati System) on the eastern Transvaal escarpment. The routes it probably used to colonize these streams are discussed and used to explain its current restricted distribution with reference to its ecological requirements. Fish up to a fork length of 2,0 cm feed on invertebrates while larger fish utilize ‘Aufwuchs’, especially diatoms. This dietary difference results in an increase in the food spectrum and possibly also serves to limit competition between smaller and larger lengths groups. Relative gut lengths increase with an increase in fork length and this is correlated with a change in diet from invertebrates to diatoms. Observations on captive fishes indicated that adult fish are able to survive on a diet of Daphnia spp. The habitat of K. auriculata is considered to be unstable due to the occurrence of unpredictable summer floods in escarpment streams. As a result the species has a prolonged breeding season (October to April) while the presence of two size classes of ova indicate that it is a multiple spawner. This breeding strategy minimizes mortality in escarpment streams. The colonization by this fish of previously unsuitable and unavailable habitat indicates that it is a generalist. Its feeding habits and reproductive strategy indicate, however, that it has developed a certain degree of specialization in order to survive in a relatively unpredictable habitat. The conservation prospects of the seven natural and one translocated population varies from uncertain to good. Medium and long term conservation measures are needed to ensure the survival of this fish in the Transvaal.

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