Role of fish in structuring invertebrates on stromatolites in Cuatro Ciénegas, México

Eric C. Dinger, Dean A. Hendrickson, Barbara M. Winsborough, Jane C. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Stromatolites, the dominant Precambrian life form, declined in the Phanerozoic to occur today in only a few sites. This decline has been attributed to evolution of metazoan grazers, but stromatolites in our study site, Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila, México, harbor diverse macroinvertebrates. Drawing on food chain theory, we hypothesized that fish predation on invertebrates controls invertebrate populations, allowing stromatolites to flourish in Cuatro Ciénegas. Our experiment used small mesh (1 mm) cages to exclude all but larval fishes, and larger (6.5 mm) cages to exclude all larger fishes (including the molluscivorous and omnivorous endemic polymorphic cichlid, Herichthys minckleyi), but allow access to all sizes of the abundant endemic pupfish, Cyprinodon bifasciatus. No effects of treatments on invertebrate densities were noted at 6 week, but significant effects were observed on specific taxonomic groups after 3 month. In absence of fishes, hydrobiidae snails and ceratopogonids increased 3- and 5-fold, respectively, and invertebrate assemblage composition varied among treatments. Algal biomass was not affected by treatments, but algal species composition appeared to change. Overall results suggest that fish assemblages structure invertebrate assemblages, and that fishes may also be factors in determining algal communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-420
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Aquatic invertebrates
  • Cuatro Ciénegas
  • Fish predation
  • Food webs
  • Mexico
  • Modern stromatolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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