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Journal Article

Freshwater hydrozoan blooms alter activity and behaviour of territorial cichlids in Lake Tanganyika

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Bose, A. P. H., Zimmermann, H., & Sefc, K. M. (2019). Freshwater hydrozoan blooms alter activity and behaviour of territorial cichlids in Lake Tanganyika. Royal Society Open Science, 6(11): 191053. doi:10.1098/rsos.191053.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-8180-7
Blooms of gelatinous zooplankton can represent dramatic environmental perturbations for aquatic ecosystems. Yet, we still know little about how blooms impact fitness-related behaviours of fish caught within their areas of effect, especially for freshwater systems. Here, we documented the behavioural impacts of freshwater hydrozoan (Limnocnida tanganjicae) blooms on a territorial cichlid (Variabilichromis moorii), as well as on the wider community of cichlids in a shallow-water rocky habitat of Lake Tanganyika. Compared with non-bloom conditions, V. moorii individuals in the midst of blooms reduced their swimming and territory defence activities (each by approx. 50%) but not their foraging or affiliative behaviours. Despite this reduction in activity, V. moorii could not entirely avoid being stung and preferred to remain closer to the rocky substrata as opposed to the more open demersal zone. Many other fishes similarly hid among the benthic substrata, changing the composition of the fish community in the demersal zone during bloom conditions. Reductions in activity could have multiple fitness-related implications for individual fish. Establishing the consequences of these behavioural changes is important for understanding the effects of gelatinous zooplankton blooms in freshwater systems.