Juveniles of the piscivorous dourado Salminus brasiliensis mimic the piraputanga Brycon hilarii as an alternative predation tactic

In the district of Bom Jardim, in Nobres, Mato Grosso State, Brazil, there are clear water streams originating on karstic terrain. The dourado, Salminus brasiliensis, is an apex stalking predator in these streams. In clear waters, where visually oriented prey may perceive predator in advance, surprise is needed for successful attacks. These streams are cohabited by other Characiformes, like the frugivorous piraputanga Brycon hilarii, which lives in schools and exhibits body colour and shape similar to the dourados. Here we describe an alternative predatory tactic for juvenile dourado occurring in headwater streams of the Paraguay River basin, in which they act as an aggressive mimic of the piraputanga. Based on 43 h of observations in Bom Jardim, and on additional 11 h in the Bodoquena Plateau Rivers of Mato Grosso do Sul State, we quantified the number of rushes by dourados when they were among piraputangas or foraging alone, and observed the proportion of piraputangas per dourado in multispecific schools. Dourados of up to 30 cm total length (TL) stayed among the piraputangas of similar size hiding within the school and going to the periphery of the school before rushing against prey. The dourados exhibited colours similar to the piraputangas. They not only stayed longer among piraputangas (78% of the observation time), but also rushed against prey more often than when foraging alone (53 rushes/h against 14 rushes/h, respectively).

Characid; Feeding behavior; Mimicry; Underwater observations

Sociedade Brasileira de Ictiologia Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Núcleo de Pesquisas em Limnologia, Ictiologia e Aquicultura/Coleção Ictiologia, Av. Colombo, 5790, 87020-900 Maringá, PR, Brasil, Tel.: (55 44)3011 4632 - Maringá - PR - Brazil
E-mail: neoichth@nupelia.uem.br