Invasive Nile tilapia dominates a threatened indigenous tilapia in competition over shelter

T Champneys*, M J Genner, C C Ioannou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to freshwater ecosystems globally. However, the causal mechanisms that drive negative impacts of many invasive species are poorly understood. In Tanzania, non-native Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) exists in sympatry with a diverse range of native species, many of which are congenerics with strong niche overlap. It has been suggested that O. niloticus can displace native species from preferred habitat through dominance during interference competition, yet interference competition between O. niloticus and a native tilapia species has never been directly tested under experimental conditions. In this study juvenile O. niloticus and Manyara tilapia (Oreochromis amphimelas), a functionally similar but endangered Tanzanian cichlid, were size matched in conspecific and heterospecific pairs. We presented pairs with limited shelter and recorded competitive interactions. We found that O. niloticus were more aggressive and faster to initiate agonistic interactions than O. amphimelas. Furthermore, O. niloticus showed a strong competitive dominance in their interactions with O. amphimelas. One-sided dominance hierarchies can drive fundamental changes in resource use by subordinate individuals, potentially resulting in habitat displacement over the long term. Based on this experimental evidence, we conclude that O. niloticus may threaten native tilapia species through dominance in interference competition.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2020


  • aggression
  • agonistic interaction
  • aquaculture
  • competitive exclusion
  • dominance index
  • interspecific competition


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