Diverse Early Life-History Strategies in Migratory Amazonian Catfish: Implications for Conservation and Management

Atenção às normas de uso. Esta publicação é regida pela Licença Creative Commons.



Animal migrations provide important ecological functions and can allow for increased biodiversity through habitat and niche diversification. However, aquatic migrations in general, and those of the world’s largest fish in particular, are imperiled worldwide and are often poorly understood. Several species of large Amazonian catfish carry out some of the longest freshwater fish migrations in the world, travelling from the Amazon River estuary to the Andes foothills. These species are important apex predators in the main stem rivers of the Amazon Basin and make up the region’s largest fishery. They are also the only species to utilize the entire Amazon Basin to complete their life cycle. Studies indicate both that the fisheries may be declining due to overfishing, and that the proposed and completed dams in their upstream range threaten spawning migrations. Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the details of these species’ migrations, or their life history. Otolith microchemistry has been an effective method for quantifying and reconstructing fish migrations worldwide across multiple spatial scales and may provide a powerful tool to understand the movements of Amazonian migratory catfish. Our objective was to describe the migratory behaviors of the three most populous and commercially important migratory catfish species, Dourada (Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii), Piramutaba (Brachyplatystoma vaillantii), and Piraíba (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum). We collected fish from the mouth of the Amazon River and the Central Amazon and used strontium isotope signatures (87Sr/86Sr) recorded in their otoliths to determine the location of early rearing and subsequent. Fish location was determined through discriminant function classification, using water chemistry data from the literature as a training set. Where water chemistry data was unavailable, we successfully in predicted 87Sr/86Sr isotope values using a regression-based approach that related the geology of the upstream watershed to the Sr isotope ratio. Our results provide the first reported otolith microchemical reconstruction of Brachyplatystoma migratory movements in the Amazon Basin. Our results indicate that juveniles exhibit diverse rearing strategies, rearing in both upstream and estuary environments. This contrasts with the prevailing understanding that juveniles rear in the estuary before migrating upstream; however, it is supported by some fisheries data that has indicated the presence of alternate spawning and rearing life-histories. The presence of alternate juvenile rearing strategies may have important implications for conservation and management of the fisheries in the region.