Gambusia affinis: A Professional Invader

Courtesy of J Centavo @Flickr

I’m far away from the fishpond right now, taking a summer modeling course through Michigan State University. However, talk of some fishpond species has crossed the Pacific Ocean and reached me here. Dr. Andy Sih, a behavioral ecologist from The University of California Davis is visiting the campus and just gave a talk on “behavioral syndromes” (a technical name for personalities) and their role in mate choice, population dispersal, and invasion of new habitats. Interestingly, one of the animals his lab has used to study behavioral effects on invasion is Gambusia affinis, the western mosquitofish, which is invasive to Hawaii and very plentiful in the fishpond. According to the Global Invasive Species DatabaseG. affinis is one of the Top 100 Invasive Pests in the world. Due to its generalist diet, it competes with other fish for resources and often also eats the eggs of other fish (including economically desirable ones, though it’s unknown whether it eats awa’awa or moi eggs). The interesting thing Dr. Sih said about G. affinis, though, is that among the members of theGambusia genus, G. affinis is uniquely invasive and aggressive. Its feeding voracity contributes to its ability to spread, establish in new locations, and have heavy impacts on the local species once it establishes. This makes it a good study organism for behavioral syndromes that may be characteristic of invasive animal species. Dr. Sih’s research suggests that behavioral syndromes such as feeding voracity may make some species (and some individuals within species) better invaders.


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  • Mahalo Nui Loa

    I recently graduated from the Donahue Lab at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and am currently a graduate student at the University of Washington. This research is funded by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, as well a scholarship from the Seattle chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation.
  • “Where do ecological ideas come from? …Most do not spring deductively from the minds of ecologists, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Instead, they emerge when ecologists absorb the essential spirit of individual places– their genius loci.”

    ~Mary V. Price & Ian Billick, "The Ecology of Place"
  • “Aloha is the intelligence with which we meet life.”

    ~Olana A'i, Kumu Hula

  • “I no longer say ‘Hawaiian ways of knowing’ anymore. Because people relegate that to the margins. ‘Ways of knowing,’ as if it’s a quaint, anthropologic way of describing something outside us. No, it’s ‘epistemology,’ the philosophy of knowledge. Land educates. ‘Ike ‘aina. The land of your birth educates you. This land here educates you.”

    ~Manu Meyer

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