Nursery Habitat Shifts in an Estuarine Ecosystem: Patterns of Use by Sympatric Catfish Species

Research paper by David Valença Dantas, Mario Barletta, André Ricardo Araújo Lima, Jonas de Assis Almeida Ramos, Monica Ferreira da Costa, Ulrich Saint-Paul

Indexed on: 01 Nov '11Published on: 01 Nov '11Published in: Estuaries and coasts : journal of the Estuarine Research Federation


The seasonal and spatial distribution (density and biomass) of five size classes of two catfish species (Cathorops spixii and Cathorops agassizii) were studied along an estuarine ecocline to test the relative importance of the nursery function of each habitat. Seasonal vs. area interactions were significant for all size classes of both species. During the early rainy season, the middle estuary is an important nursery habitat for juveniles of both species. When environmental conditions change during the late rainy season, the C. spixii primary nursery habitat shifts to the lower estuary. During this period, juveniles of C. agassizii remain in the middle estuary. Another important ecological area is the upper estuary, which becomes a breeding, spawning and hatchery area during the late dry season for both species. The nursery function of habitats shifts according to the seasonal fluctuation of salinity and dissolved oxygen, and each species responds differently to this change.