Introduction of fish species is a globally widespread practice that causes losses of native species and homogenization of diversity within and across continents. Diet assessments are important tools to depict the ecological function of species introduced into novel ecosystem and possible direct and indirect ecological effects. In this study, we compare the diet of Piaractus brachypomus, a mainly frugivorous Neotropical fish, introduced into the Sepik-Ramu River Basin (Papua New Guinea) nearly two decades ago, to that of similar size individuals from Neotropical populations in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins (South America). In contrast to native populations that feed mainly on terrestrial plants and invertebrates, the diet of introduced P. brachypomus is mainly composed of fish remains and aquatic plants, while terrestrial plants are frequently consumed but in relatively smaller amounts. These findings show that P. brachypomus has an inherently plastic diet that can be adjusted when displaced to a novel geographic area. While trophic plasticity increases the likelihood of a species to establish breeding populations after its introduction, it also reduces our ability to predict negative effects on native species.
Exotic fish; Fruit-eating fish; Species introduction; Red Belly Pacu; Stocking