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Acta Amazonica

Print version ISSN 0044-5967On-line version ISSN 1809-4392

Acta Amaz. vol.47 no.1 Manaus Jan./Mar. 2017 


Feeding ecology of Serrapinnus notomelas (Characiformes: Cheirodontinae) in small forest streams in the Machado River basin, Rondônia, Brazil

Ecologia alimentar de Serrapinnus notomelas (Characiformes: Cheirodontinae) em igarapés da bacia do Rio Machado, Rondônia, Brasil

Igor David da COSTA*  1 

Vanessa Martins da ROCHA2 

1Universidade Federal de Rondônia. Departamento de Engenharia de Pesca, Rua da Paz, 4376, Bairro Lino Alves Teixeira, CEP: 76.916-000, Presidente Médici, Rondônia, Brazil.

2Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. Rodovia Francisco Thomaz Dos Santos, 3532 - Armação do Pântano do Sul, CEP: 88066-260, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.


Studies on the trophic structure of fish give information on species autoecology and their role in the ecosystem. The aims of this study were to characterize the diet of Serrapinnus notomelas in small streams of the River Machado basin and to assess the effect of rainfall seasonality. Fish were collected bimonthly from July 2013 to May 2014 with seine nets and hand nets. The length of each specimen was measured to identify category classes. There were also measured the fullness index and volume of each ingested item, and these data were combined to obtain an alimentary index. We used ANOVA and Kruskal-Wallis to test for differences between length classes and fullness index, Chi-squared tests to detect seasonal differences in origin of food items and non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis to examine temporal variation in diet. We found that most of the specimens were longer than 20 mm, showing a polymodal distribution. In both seasons stomachs of most fish were full. Serrapinnus notomelas feeds on items of plant and animal origin. A higher consumption of aquatic macrophytes and algae was observed, suggesting omnivorous feeding behavior with a tendency to herbivory. Items of plant and autochthonous origin were consumed more than other items in both seasons, and consumption of animal and autochthonous items varied between seasons. These results reinforce the idea that S. notomelas show trophic plasticity between seasons.

Keywords: Characidae; Trophic ecology; Igarapés; Ornamental fish; Amazon


Estudos sobre a estrutura trófica de peixes dão informações sobre autoecologia espécies e seu papel no ecossistema. Os objetivos deste estudo foram caracterizar a dieta Serrapinnus notomelas em igarapés da bacia do rio Machado e avaliar o efeito da sazonalidade das chuvas. Os peixes foram coletados bimestralmente de julho 2013 a maio de 2014, com redes de arrasto e redes de mão. O comprimento de cada espécime foi medido para identificar a categoria das classes. Também foram medidos o grau de repleção e o volume de cada item ingerido, e estes dados foram combinadas para se obter um índice alimentar. Foram utilizados uma ANOVA e Kruskal-Wallis para diferenças entre classes de comprimento e graus de repleção, teste de qui-quadrado para detectar diferenças sazonais na origem dos alimentos e análise de escalonamento multidimensional não-métrico para examinar variação temporal na dieta. Nós encontramos que a maioria dos indivíduos eram maiores que 20 mm, apresentando distribuição polimodal. Para ambas as estações a maioria dos estômagos apresentaram-se cheios. Serrapinnus notomelas ingeriu itens vegetais e animais. Observamos maior consumo de macrófitas aquáticas e algas, sugerindo comportamento alimentar onívoro com tendência a herbivoria. Itens de origem vegetal e autóctone foram mais consumidos que os demais itens em ambas as estações, e o consumo de itens animais e itens autóctones variou entre as estações. Estes resultados reforçam a ideia de que S. notomelas apresenta plasticidade trófica entre as estações.

PALAVRAS-CHAVE: Characidae; Ecologia trófica; Igarapés; Peixe ornamental; Amazônia


Understanding the trophic ecology of stream-dwelling fishes and how fishes use the spatial and seasonal components of their environment is important to support studies on community structure and investigations into biological interactions, such as predation and competition (Esteves and Aranha 1999). Trophic ecology studies show that most teleosts exhibit considerable versatility in their food habits and that their food spectrum can be influenced not only by the biology of each species but also by environmental conditions (Abelha et al. 2001).

Small forest streams (locally known as igarapés) are watercourses that are poor in nutrients and have low primary production (Mendonça et al. 2008). The food webs in these systems depend on allochthonous matter from nearby forests (Abilhoa et al. 2009). These streams are also subject to frequent, rapid flood pulses (Carvalho et al. 2013). Heavy rains in drainage basins are one factor leading to environmental changes in streams (Corrêa et al. 2012). According to Espírito-Santo et al. (2009), fish assemblages and the physical characteristics of small streams vary in the dry and rainy seasons. As the water level reaches or overtops the banks, new food resources become available to fishes (Corrêa et al. 2012). Trophic relationships in fish communities are affected by the availability of resources (Ximenes et al. 2011; Ferreira et al. 2014).

The order Characiformes is the Neotropical group of fishes with the greatest diversity of species, morphologies and behaviors (Lévêque et al. 2008). Over 1500 Characiformes species have been described to date (Reis et al. 2003). Although the subfamily Cheirodontinae is one of the best-known groups of Characidae in terms of phylogeny and taxonomy (Malabarba 2003; Bührnheim et al. 2008), there is a dearth of studies on the ecology of this subfamily (Benitez and Súarez 2009), and most of the available information is on the biological aspects of Cheirodontinae species in southern Brazil (Santi-Rampazzo et al. 2008; Benitez and Súarez 2009; Gonçalves et al. 2011).

Serrapinnus notomelas (Eigenmann, 1915) shows ornamental importance (Regulatory Directive 001/2012-MPA/MMA) and contributes 0.0009% of the total ornamental fish exports of Brazilian inland waters caught in the states of Amazonas and Pará (IBAMA 2008). It is algivorous and non-migratory and does not exhibit parental care (Suzuki et al. 2004). Serrapinnus notomelas has a short life cycle and a small body size and can be found in a great variety of habitats (Luiz et al. 1998).

Seasonal variation in wind and rainfall can be expected to result in allochthonous matter entering streams in different patterns (Angermeier and Karr 1983). We hypothesize that seasonal changes will alter food resources, leading to changes in the diet, length classes, and fullness index of S. notomelas. The aim of this study was to characterize the diet of S. notomelas in small streams in the Machado River basin and to compare its composition between two different seasons (rainy and dry).


Fish sampling was conducted in the Dom João stream (62°04'51"W, 11°10'56"S), the Penha stream (62°04'40"W, 11°11'50"S) and the Mangueira stream (62°05'10"W, 11°13'54"S), which are located in the Machado River basin in the eastern part of the state of Rondônia (Figure 1). The temperature in this region varies between 19 °C and 33 °C, and the annual precipitation is approximately 2,500 mm (Krusche et al. 2005). There are two well-defined seasons: the dry season (from May to October) and the rainy season (from November to April) (Fernandes and Guimarães 2002). The streams are second-order, and the sampling sites were determined according to Horton's scale, modified by Strahler (Petts 1994). Second-order streams have a sandy substratum, pastures in the adjacent matrix and a small amount of riparian vegetation, such as grass and small aquatic plants. In the dry season during the study period, the mean depth was 300 ± 100.0 cm, the mean width was 281 ± 41.1 cm, the mean water speed was 0.4 ± 0.2 m s-1 and the mean flow was 33.2 ± 0.4 m3 s-1, while in the rainy season, the mean depth was 390 ± 130.0 cm, the mean width was 316 ± 47.5 cm, the mean water speed was 0.4 ± 0.0 m s-1 and the mean flow was 49.2 ± 0.3 m3 s-1.

Figure 1 Map of the Machado River basin with the study sites indicated. 

In total, two dry and two rainy seasons were sampled: July 2013, September 2013, January 2014 and March 2014, along a 50 m stretch of the streams (Mendonça et al. 2005). Seine nets (picarés) measuring 2.0 × 1.20 m with a mesh size of 2 mm and a dip net (puçá) with a 0.46 × 0.33 m opening and a mesh size of 2 mm were used simultaneously along the entire stretch for one hour. Before sampling, each end of the 50 m sampling site was blocked with gill nets (5 mm mesh size) to prevent fishes from escaping.

The fish were collected under an ICMBio (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade) permit (31446-1/2011). Every fish was euthanized using a lethal dose of clove oil (eugenol) and immediately fixed in 10% formalin solution and preserved in 70% ethanol. The species were identified following Queiroz et al. (2013), and voucher specimens were deposited in the fish collection of the Universidade Federal de Rondônia, Porto Velho, Brazil (UFRO-I 11257 e 13782).

The standard length (SL) of each specimen was measured to identify length classes (LCs). These were calculated according to the Sturges method (Sturges 1926). Stomach contents were stored in 70% alcohol, and food items were analyzed and identified to the lowest taxonomic level using Bicudo and Bicudo (1970), Hamada and Ferreira-Keppler (2012) and Hamada et al. (2014) using a dissecting microscope. The occurrence frequency (Fi%) and the method of volumetric frequency (Vi%) were used to analyze stomach contents (Hyslop 1980). The occurrence frequency was calculated by recording the number of fish in which each item occurred, obtaining the percentage in relation to the total stomachs with food. For the volumetric frequency, the volume of each item was obtained by the percentage in relation to the total value of every stomach contents. The volume was obtained through gridded dish, where the volume was obtained in cubic millimeter and later transformed into milliliter (Hellawell and Abel 1971). These data were combined in an alimentary index (IAi) proposed by Kawakami and Vazzoler (1980). The index is given by the equation IAi = (Fi*Vi)/Σ Fi*Vi)*100, where i = 1. 2, ... n food items; Fi = frequency of occurrence of a given food item; and Vi = volume of a given food item. Food items were grouped according to type (animal or plant) and origin (autochthonous or allochthonous). Fullness index (FI) was determined according to Hahn et al. (1999) and was coded as follows: 0 (empty), 1 (volume < 25%), 2 (25% < volume < 75%) and 3 (75% < volume < 100%).

The Shapiro-Wilks test of normality and Levene's test of homoscedasticity were used to determine whether parametric ANOVA or the non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis test should be used to test for differences between LC (length classes) by season, FI (fullness index) by season and IAi by season (Zar 1999). As sources of variation were considered seasons (rainy and dry), LC (12 - 14 mm, 15 - 17 mm, 18 - 20 mm, 21 - 23 mm, 24 - 26 mm, 27 - 29 mm, 30 - 32 mm, 33 - 35 mm and 36 - 38 mm), (FI 0, FI 1, FI 2 and FI 3) and IAi. Chi-squared tests (χ2) were applied to data that had a normal distribution and to detection of seasonal differences (rainy versus dry season) in origin of food items (Zar 1999).

Non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis (nMDS) was used to examine temporal variation in diet using the total volume of each item. The dissimilarity matrix used in the ordination was constructed using the Bray-Curtis index, with this analysis carried out using the PAST software (version 2.1.7) (Hammer et al. 2001). In nMDS analysis a low stress value (0.1), correspond to a good ordering, ensuring good reliability in the interpretation of the results (Clarke and Warwick 1994). The ANOVA and χ2 tests were performed were performed using the R-package (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, version 3.0.1, 2013). The results were considered significant when p ≤ 0.05.


A total of 372 specimens were analyzed; 228 were collected in the rainy season (SL = 12 to 38 mm) and 144 in the dry season (SL = 18 to 38 mm). Most of the specimens were longer than 20 mm, and the LC with the greatest absolute frequency was LC 30 - 32 mm (n = 125; 34%), followed by LC 27 - 29 mm (n = 108; 29%), LC 24 - 26 mm (n = 44; 12%) and LC 33 - 35 mm (n = 36; 10%). The assumptions of the ANOVA were met (Shapiro-Wilk, p > 0.05; Levene, p > 0.05). Significant differences were found between the length classes analyzed (ANOVA, p < 0.05; df = 8) (Table 1).

Table 1 Absolute frequency of Serrapinnus notomela s specimens at the streams in the Machado river basin, Brazil, from July 2013 to May 2014 in each length class (LC). The data shown in different letters are significant at the 0.05 level.  

LC (mm) Absolute frequency
Rainy season Dry season
12 -14 1b 0b
15 - 17 3b 0b
18 - 20 21ª 2b
21 - 23 23ª 5b
24 - 26 25ª 19ª
27 - 29 56ª 52ª
30 - 32 72ª 53ª
33 - 35 25ª 11ª
36 - 38 2b 2b

A total of 219 specimens were analyzed for FI; 119 were collected in the rainy season and 100 in the dry season. The assumptions of the ANOVA were met (Shapiro-Wilk, p > 0.05; Levene, p > 0.05). Significant differences were found between the fullness index analyzed (ANOVA, p < 0.05; df = 3) (Table 2).

Table 2 Absolute frequency of Serrapinnus notomelas specimens for each stomach fullness index class. Fullness index 0 (FI 0 = empty), fullness index 1 (FI 1 = < 25%), fullness index 2 (FI 2 = 25% - 75%) and fullness index 3 (FI 3 = 75% - 100%) at the streams in the Machado River basin, Brazil, from July 2013 to May 2014. Data shown in different letters are significant at the 0.05 level.  

Fullness index Absolute frequency
Rainy season Dry season
FI 0 0b 0b
FI 1 9b 1b
FI 2 30ª 15b
FI 3 79ª 83ª

Serrapinnus notomelas ingested a wide variety of food items, including material of plant origin, such as algae and macrophytes; material of animal origin, such as mites, zooplankton, scales and terrestrial and aquatic insects at different stages of the life cycle; and undefined matter (detritus/mud). The main items consumed, the fragments of aquatic macrophytes was the most important item in rainy season (IAi = 54.94; p = 0.00; df = 1) compared to dry season (IAi = 49.01), as well as digested plant material (rainy, IAi = 7.60; dry IAi = 5.65, p = 0.01; df = 1). Microsporaceae (green algae) was the most important item in dry season (rainy, IAi = 5.83; dry IAi = 7.29; p = 0.01; df = 1), as well as Desmidiaceae (rainy, IAi = 0.13; dry IAi = 6.58; p = 0.00; df = 1) (Table 3).

Table 3 Percentage composition by volume (Vi), occurrence (Fi) and alimentary index (IAi) of each food item identified in the diet of Serrapinnus notomelas during the rainy and dry seasons in streams in the Machado River basin, Brazil, from July 2013 to May 2014. Allochthonous items*; autochthonous items**. 

Food items Rainy season Dry season
Vi% Fi% IAi Vi% Fi% IAi
Plant origin
Chlorophyta** 2.44 3.50 1.73 4.78 3.53 3.66
Chaetophorales** 0.02 0.09 0.15
Cyanophyta** 0.09 0.55 0.01 0.00 0.08 0.00
Sphaeropleales** 0.00 0.09 0.12
Amphipleuraceae** 0.01 0.27 0.32 0.01 0.58 0.45
Bacillariaceae** 0.07 0.83 0.90 0.01 0.42 0.36
Bacillariophyceae** 0.29 2.22 0.13 0.27 0.08 0.30
Biddulphiaceae** 0.13 0.92 0.99 0.90 1.17 0.23
Brachysiraceae** 0.01 1.30 1.33 0.00 0.33 0.00
Catenulaceae** 0.04 1.02 0.01 0.02 0.67 0.00
Chlorellaceae** 0.01 0.09 1.13 0.01 0.16 0.18
Cladophoraceae** 0.33 0.65 0.04 0.30 0.59 0.03
Closteriaceae** 1.05 4.73 1.03 1.80 4.46 1.74
Cymbellaceae** 0.25 3.43 0.15 0.32 4.21 0.28
Desmidiaceae** 0.37 3.71 0.13 8.89 6.65 6.58
Diadesmidaceae** 0.01 0.37 0.40 0.01 0.50 0.00
Euglenaceae** 0.01 0.27 0.30 0.00 0.08 0.00
Eunotiaceae** 0.15 1.20 0.03 0.11 0.59 0.01
Fragilariaceae** 0.08 0.65 0.71 0.00 0.08 0.00
Gomphonemataceae** 0.71 3.99 0.53 0.29 2.69 0.16
Hydrodictyaceae** 0.01 0.09 0.12 0.01 0.50 0.00
Microcystaceae** 0.00 0.09 0.00 0.02 0.16 0.00
Microsporaceae** 10.42 2.69 5.83 6.90 4.88 7.29
Naviculaceae** 0.14 1.85 0.03 0.19 2.61 0.06
Naviculales** 0.26 2.50 0.13 0.12 2.27 0.06
Neidiaceae** 0.02 0.42 0.00
Nostocaceae** 0.01 0.18 0.16
Oscillatoriaceae** 0.83 1.20 0.20 1.17 2.94 0.74
Phacaceae** 0.01 0.09 0.11
Pinnulariaceae** 3.49 4.82 3.50 0.75 4.46 0.72
Pseudanabaenaceae** 0.51 1.02 0.10 0.22 0.42 0.02
Rhopalodiaceae** 0.01 0.27 0.30 0.00 0.08 0.00
Rivulariaceae** 0.24 0.46 0.02 0.09 0.16 0.00
Schizomeridaceae** 5.55 1.85 2.14 0.81 0.75 0.13
Selenastraceae** 0.00 0.08 0.00
Sellaphoraceae** 0.01 0.37 0.40 0.10 1.43 0.03
Stauroneidaceae** 0.04 0.92 1.00 0.04 1.26 0.00
Surirellaceae** 0.05 0.65 0.70 0.09 1.43 0.02
Ulotrichaceae** 5.85 3.90 4.74 6.28 4.54 6.17
Volvocaceae** 0.05 0.18 0.30
Zygnemataceae** 5.47 2.78 2.20 8.06 9.09 8.08
Digested plant material* 6.68 5.47 7.60 6.75 3.87 5.65
Macrophytes** 27.96 9.47 54.94 30.95 7.32 49.01
Animal origin
Acari* 0.17 0.65 0.02 0.07 0.50 0.00
Coleoptera* 4.07 3.06 2.59 1.08 2.02 0.47
Diptera (adult)** 0.15 0.74 0.02 0.07 0.33 0.00
Diptera (larva)* 0.07 0.09 0.10 0.11 0.16 0.00
Ephemeroptera* 0.16 0.09 0.25 0.46 0.59 0.05
Lepidoptera* 0.15 0.09 0.20
Megaloptera* 0.03 0.09 0.12
Odonata* 0.50 0.37 0.03 0.69 0.67 0.10
Trichoptera* 2.72 1.95 1.10 0.76 1.09 0.18
Bosminidae* 0.01 0.08 0.00
Ceratopogonidae* 0.11 0.09 0.15 0.03 0.08 0.00
Corydalidae* 0.03 0.09 0.12 0.03 0.08 0.00
Elmidae* 0.24 0.55 0.02
Hydrobiosidae* 0.03 0.08 0.00
Lampyridae* 0.02 0.09 0.12
Leptophlebiidae* 0.28 0.18 0.45 0.53 0.25 0.02
Moinidae* 0.03 0.09 0.11
Zooplankton* 0.01 0.09 0.32 0.02 0.16 0.00
Cyclopoida* 0.07 0.08 0.00
Daphniidae* 0.14 0.83 0.98 0.08 0.58 0.00
Fragments of fishes* 2.02 0.50 0.22
Scales* 3.81 3.71 2.94 2.86 2.02 1.25
Unidentified eggs* 0.50 0.55 0.05 0.31 0.59 0.04
Nematoda* 0.88 1.30 0.23 0.15 0.33 0.01
Larvae of unidentified insects* 2.93 3.61 1.23 0.68 1.76 0.20
Allochthonous fragments of insects** 5.17 3.43 3.69 4.04 3.53 3.09
Autochthonous fragments of insects* 0.64 0.92 0.12 1.73 0.75 0.28
Unidentified Material
Material of undetermined origin 1.07 1.30 0.29 0.46 0.08 0.50
Detritus/mud** 1.76 5.47 2.00 2.59 5.72 3.21

There were significant differences between the amount of food items of allochthonous origin and the amount of food items of autochthonous origin ingested in both the dry season (χ2 = 77.2; p < 0.05; df = 1) and the rainy season (χ2 = 73.6; p < 0.05; df = 1). In both seasons consumption of autochthonous food items was greater. There was also a significant difference between the amount of material of animal origin and the amount of material of plant origin ingested in both the dry season (χ2 = 76.7; p < 0.05; df = 1) and the rainy season (χ2 = 56.0; p < 0.05; df = 1). In both seasons S. notomelas ingested mainly items of plant origin.

nMDS analysis indicated that there was considerable overlap of items of animal (stress = 0.11, where a low stress values indicates a good ordering, ensuring good reliability in the interpretation of the results), plant (stress = 0.08), autochthonous (stress = 0.10) and allochthonous origin (stress = 0.23), consumed by S. notomelas in each season, the analysis failed to show any separation on axis 1 and 2 retained for interpretation (Figure 2a-d).

Figure 2 Non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis of volumetric data for animal (A), plant (B), autochthonous (C) and allochthonous (D) items in the diet of Serrapinnus notomelas during the dry season (square) and rainy season (circle), in streams in the Machado River basin, Brazil, from July 2013 to May 2014. 


Most of the captured individuals had size between 30 and 32 mm. According to Malabarba (2003), the subfamily Cheirodontinae consists mainly of small individuals that reach a maximum length of 30 - 40 mm. However, in studies by Lourenço et al. (2008) and Benitez and Súarez (2009), mean length was 26 mm and 32 mm, respectively. Corroborating the results of our study, Lourenço et al. (2008) reported that LC 23 - 28 mm had the greatest number of individuals, while for Benitez and Súarez (2009) the corresponding LC was 28 - 32 mm. This result indicates that the species of our study possibly has a body growth (SL) faster than in other locations, which is expected relatively given that it is a foraging species, which should reach the maximum length as soon as possible aiming minimize the chance of predation (Reznick et al. 1996).

The LC distribution for S. notomelas was polymodal, a distribution pattern also found in studies of Lundberg and McDade (1986) and Espírito-Santo et al. (2013), which may indicate repeated reproductive episodes throughout the year and, consequently, the presence of various cohorts in the population analyzed in the streams that feed into the Machado river basin. We suggest that predominant absolute frequency of certain size classes in the rainy season is related to the preferred food item of this species. As macrophytes were the most consumed item in the rainy season, the high absolute frequency of the species may be associated with the greater availability of this food resource when the water is deeper.

In studies involving Serrapinnus heterodon in a reservoir in the São Paulo state (Gonçalves et al. 2011) and S. notomelas on a lake in the Paraná River basin (Carniatto et al. 2012), it was found a high frequency of full stomachs, our study corroborate those findings. In fishes, the seasonal cycle of nutritional reserves, such as fat, follows a pattern associated with reproduction (Favero et al. 2010; Freitas et al. 2011; Espírito-Santo et al. 2013), when fishes reduce feeding activity and use the energy stored in fat for gonadal maturation (Santos et al. 2010).

Serrapinnus notomelas shows an opportunistic reproductive strategy, does not exhibit parental care and has continuous reproduction, i.e. multiple clutches (Winemiller 1989). This may explain the large number of individuals with full stomachs in the dry and rainy seasons in our study. Studies carried out in different regions of Brazil have shown that fish reproduction is usually associated with increases in rainfall during the rainy season, when food is more available for offspring (Vazzoler and Menezes 1992; Winemiller 1993; Winemiller et al. 2008). This is in agreement with our findings of more individuals with FI 1 and FI 2 in the rainy season.

Due to the consumption of plant and animal items, we noted that S. notomelas is an omnivorous species with tendency to herbivory. Based on tooth morphology, Malabarba (2003) classified Cheirodontinae species mainly as herbivores. This classification was confirmed by the high value of intestinal quotient (0.62 mm) observed by Gonçalves et al. (2011) for S. heterodon. Hahn and Loureiro-Crippa (2006) and Luiz et al. (1998) studied lagoons and streams in the Paraná river catchment basin and classified S. notomelas as an algivorous species, while Minzão et al. (2004) classified it as omnivorous because of its consumption of microcrustaceans and algae. According to Agostinho et al. (2007) omnivorous habits are an important strategy in impacted environments allowing increased energy acquisition according to the availability and quality of food.

In a study on fish/macrophyte interaction in the Rosana reservoir in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, Casatti et al. (2003) reported the algivorous habits of S. notomelas. Pelicice and Agostinho (2006) found that this was the only herbivorous species in the same reservoir, feeding almost exclusively on algae and bryophytes. The high consumption of aquatic macrophytes and algae in our study is related to the morphological attributes described for the species. Serrapinnus notomelas has stronger teeth (broader with more cusps), an important feature when scraping periphyton from the stems of submerged macrophytes (Hahn and Loureiro-Crippa 2006). This attribute is important for species that feeds on plant resources, which are known to be difficult to digest. In contrast, carnivorous fishes have shorter intestines (Hahn and Loureiro-Crippa 2006).

It should be noted that the large amount of macrophytes and algae ingested by S. notomelas is related to the fact that the submerged parts of macrophytes form a complex habitat made up of stems and roots colonized by algae and invertebrates (Junk 1973) throughout the year. Pelicice et al. (2005) reported that in addition to being used as food source, macrophytes are substratum for periphyton and invertebrates. Associated with this is the fact that the streams studied are in pastures, where there is no plant cover, which can lead to greater periphyton productivity because of the increased light incidence (Mosisch et al. 2001).

The origin of food resources available to fishes may change substantially among streams and rivers. Shaded headwater forest streams contain mainly allochthonous resources and generally harbor fish species that tend to be omnivorous generalists. However, there is some autochthonous primary production in these systems and several fish species take advantage of that. In stream reaches exposed to direct sunlight, some species such as small catfishes (Loricariidae) are the main consumers of periphyton, which they eat as they graze on the surface of submerged tree trunks, macrophytes and rocky substrates (Carvalho et al. 2007).

The diet of S. notomelas is dominated by food from autochthonous source. The importance of allochthonous material for the feeding of stream fishes is relevant (Nogueira and Costa 2014; Kemenes and Forsberg 2014; Costa and Soares 2015). This shows that S. notomelas depends almost exclusively on resources provided by the terrestrial environment. Moreover, Gordon (1993) suggested that allochthonous material may be indirectly important for the diet of fishes because leaves, branches, and tree trunks create microhabitats that support immature forms of insects and other organisms that compose the basis of the autochthonous food resource. In addition, the species is benthopelagic (Malabarba 2003), and its diet indicates a preference for the benthic zone as a foraging site. The preferential use of autochthonous food by stream fishes was also suggested by Casatti (2002) in São Carlos stream, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, where 70% of the food ingested by fishes was from autochthonous source.

The fact that many species are restricted to areas with canopy cover has been attributed to input of greater amount of allochthonous material, particularly terrestrial insects (Mazzoni and Iglesias 2002). Thus, the great consumption of autochthonous items by S. notomelas may also be related to the reduced vegetation cover in the observed streams.

In this study, S. notomelas consumed predominantly material of plant origin. According to Brandão-Gonçalves et al. (2010), who studied a stream in river Paraná basin, the most abundant and most important items in the diet of S. notomelas were algae and macrophytes. Items of animal origin were not frequent. The species had a strong preference for algae, and its diet did not vary with season. Most likely, because algae are an abundant resource throughout the year, thus there is no need to change the diet to a different food source.

Although different feeding classifications have been used for Cheirodontinae species, the information available in the literature suggests that most of these species have omnivorous habits and that they may consume predominantly, or have a tendency to consume, one particular item (Brandão-Gonçalves et al. 2010). Generally, the food items ingested by Cheirodontines are very similar and the food spectrum is relatively limited. Larger items, such as fruits, seeds, fishes and large crustaceans, are never present, and insects of allochthonous origin are rarely found (Souza et al. 2011). Our results contradicts the study by Souza et al. (2011), where fish fragments, scales and allochthonous fragments of insects were found in the guts of S. notomelas. This reinforces the idea that this species has omnivorous habits and may consume predominantly one particular item.

Our results suggest that this species has a very similar diet to that of other Cheirodontinae species described in the literature, both in terms of its omnivorous habits and its limited food spectrum. Although the diet of S. notomelas included material of animal origin, the species fed essentially on plant items during both seasons. For this reason, it is reasonable to classify the species as omnivorous with tendency to show herbivorous behavior, as observed in other studies (Castro et al. 2004; Dias and Fialho 2009; Brandão-Gonçalves et al. 2010).


Serrapinnus notomelas species shows a polymodal distribution pattern of LC, being one indicative that repeated reproductive episodes throughout the year and, consequently, the presence of various cohorts in the population analyzed. The absolute frequency of some size classes in the rainy season is related to the preferred food (macrophytes) item of this species. Serrapinnus notomelas has omnivorous feeding habits. Autochthonous plant material constitutes a large part of its diet, possibly because autochthonous items are of greater importance in fish diets. There was no evidence of seasonal changes in the fullness index and diet of S. notomelas apart from a reduction in the frequency of consumption of some items. However we noted significant differences between the amount of food items of allochthonous origin and autochthonous origin ingested in the dry and rainy seasons. Also, that was observed for the items of animal and plant origin. This is most likely because of the constant availability of food and the broad spectrum of food consumed by this species.


We are grateful to PIBIC/UNIR for providing an undergraduate research project scholarship for VMR. We would like to thank the staff at the Laboratório de Ictiologia e Pesca da Universidade Federal de Rondônia, particularly Marina Fonseca for helping us with the identification of stomach contents and Carolina Doria for allowing us to use the facilities.


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Received: July 08, 2016; Accepted: September 12, 2016

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