Biology and invasive potential of the introduced swordtail Xiphophorus hellerii Heckel (Poeciliidae) in Western Australia

Mark Maddern, H.S. Gill, D.L. Morgan

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    13 Citations (Scopus)


    1. The swordtail Xiphophorus hellerii is a popular ornamental freshwater fish that occurs as an introduced species in the aquatic habitats of at least 31 countries. Although introduced populations are found in other Australian states, the only known Western Australian population occurs in the Irwin River (29 degrees 15'S).2. The biology of X. hellerii in the Irwin River in south-western Australia is described from four seasonal samples, collected by seine net, between spring 2002 and winter 2003.3. Pregnant females were collected in all seasonal samples, though juveniles were absent in spring, implying that juvenile mortality during late winter is high. Although mean length of pregnant females (38.7 mm) and mean gonadosomatic index (GSI) (14.7) were similar to reported data for X. hellerii populations in Queensland, mean fecundity was markedly lower in Western Australia, i.e. 34.1, cf. 60.15.4. Logistic analysis of the percentage of female and male X. hellerii with developing and mature gonads predicted that the length at which 50% of the sexes mature was 30.8 and 31.5mm SL, respectively. The sex ratios of females to males did not differ statistically from a ratio of 2:1.5. The diet of all X. hellerii size classes was omnivorous (primarily vegetal matter/algae), although a significant difference was observed between the diet of juveniles and that of the two larger size classes (i.e. juveniles consumed greater quantities of aquatic invertebrates).6. A melanic polymorphism (i.e. pigmented caudal peduncle and fin) was observed in approximately 5% of X. hellerii collected.7. If released, the range of X. hellerii is likely to expand in anthropogenically modified habitats in tropical and temperate latitudes of Western Australia. Potential ecological impacts on indigenous fishes may be magnified owing to the depauperate nature of the endemic ichthyofauna including a lack of predators. Copyright (C) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)282-291
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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