|Mosquitofish called threat to amphibians
Native to the southeastern U.S., Mosquitofish are used all over the world to control mosquitos.
Used around the world for almost 100 years to control pesky mosquitoes, mosquitofish are a threat to amphibians, according to a recent study. The research shows that mosquitofish can decimate native amphibians because they devour tadpoles as readily as mosquito larvae.
"Handing out exotic mosquitofish as a control of mosquitoes is an outdated government policy that needs to be changed," says Lee Kats of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., who along with Jeff Goodsell published the findings in the August issue of Conservation Biology. Their study is the first to demonstrate that mosquitofish, a member of the guppy family, show no preference for mosquito larvae.
Distributed by the Los Angeles County Mosquito Abatement and Vector Control Center, mosquitofish have become established in many streams in the Santa Monica Mountains in the last 15 years. Because these streams have no native fish, the amphibians that live there lack defenses against fish predators. Amphibians native to these streams include the California newt, the Pacific treefrog and the California treefrog, which is a candidate for protected status.
"The sad thing is that these fish may have permanently changed the ecosystem," said Kats.
Previous studies have shown that mosquitofish eat amphibians such as California newt larvae in Santa Monica Mountain streams. But these studies have been criticized because the mosquitofish were not offered alternate prey, leaving them no choice but to eat newt larvae.
Mosquitofish are a threat to this California tree frog.
Kats and Goodsell addressed this criticism by offering mosquitofish both Pacific treefrog tadpoles and mosquitoes. The researchers put bottomless two-by-two-foot tubs in fish-less Santa Monica Mountain streams and added two mosquitofish, 20 tadpoles and 40 (low-density) or 80 (high-density) mosquito larvae. These predator and prey densities approximated those naturally found in local streams.
After six hours, the mosquitofish in the "low-density" tubs had eaten all the mosquito larvae and more than 85 percent of tadpoles. Similarly, the mosquitofish in the "high-density" tubs had eaten more than half of both prey types.
The fact that mosquitofish eat tadpoles even when there are plenty of mosquito larvae shows that the fish have no preference for mosquito larvae, the researchers say. "If mosquitofish are to be an effective means of biological control for mosquitoes, they should consume primarily mosquito larvae rather than other native organisms," according to Kats and Goodsell.
The researchers urge local governments to reconsider their policies of using mosquitofish to control mosquitoes. "Mosquitoes are not a major problem in Southern California — this is a desert with little freshwater — and there are other controls including a pathogen that kills larvae," says Kats.
Original source: Yahoo News Room
Submit by Liz Song on 8/18/1999