Cichlasoma Urophthalmus - Range and Habitat

Range and Habitat

The Mayan cichlid reaches a maximum standard length of 280 mm (Conkel 1997). It is native to the Atlantic slope of tropical Mesoamerica (Central America), ranging from eastern Mexico southward to Nicaragua (Miller 1966). It was first recorded from Everglades National Park, Florida in 1983 (Loftus 1987), and is now a common nonindigenous fish in southern Florida (Bergmann and Motta 2004, 2005). Eight subspecies of Cichlasoma urophthalmus are recognized throughout Central America (Caso Chavez et al. 1986): aguadae, trocheli, cienagae, ercymba, amarum, zebra, conchitae, and mayorum.

In its native range, the Mayan cichlid is a popular food fish. For this reason it is the basis of a regional fishery, is commonly used in aquaculture, and is among the most-studied of the Neotropical cichlids (Martinez-Palacios et al. 1993). To date, the Mayan cichlid has been most intensively studied at localites in southeastern Mexico on or near the Yucatan Peninsula (Caso Chavez et al. 1986; Martinez-Palacios and Ross 1986, 1988, 1992; Flores Nava et al. 1989; Martinez-Palacios et al. 1990, 1993, 1996; Salgado-Maldonado and Kennedy 1997; Vidal-Martinez et al. 1994; and Gamboa-Perez and Schmitter-Soto 1999). The Mayan cichlid inhabits lakes, rivers, rocky shorelines, lagoons, esturaries, coastal islands, red mangrove Rhizophora mangle swamps, and turtle grass Thalassia testudinum flats off the mainland. It can be found in oxygen-rich areas near submerged vegetation and over muddy substrates. However, despite its preference for waters with dissolved oxygen content of at least 3.5 mg/L, it is capable of surviving in extreme hypoxia. This is because it is an oxygen conformer, becoming much less active in hypoxic water, and even surviving virtual anoxia for up to two hours (Martinez-Palacios and Ross 1986, Gamboa-Perez and Schmitter-Soto 1999).

The Mayan cichlid is philopatric, or site tenacious, i.e. - individuals are non-migratory and prefer to stay within a home range (Caso Chavez et al. 1986, Salgado-Maldonado and Kennedy 1997, Faunce and Lorenz 2000). The Mayan cichlid has a minimum temperature requirement of about 14 degrees Celsius (Stauffer and Boltz 1994). In its native range, it inhabits waters with temperatures from 18 - 34 degrees Celsius, but its optimal temperature range is 28 - 33 degrees Celsius (Caso Chavez et al. 1986, Martinez-Palacios et al. 1996). The Mayan cichlid is capable of surviving in a variety of conditions. It is euryhaline and can survive in a range of salinity from 0 - 40 ppt (Martinez-Palacios and Ross 1992, Martinez-Palacios et al. 1993). Experiments on captive specimens have shown that it can tolerate abrupt increases in salinity of up to 15 ppt (Martinez-Palacios et al. 1990). The Mayan cichlid has a broad range of tolerance to abiotic conditions and a broad functional repertoire to enable it to feed on about 20% of evasive prey due to its 6.8% jaw protrusion while feeding (Hulsey and García de León 2005). This species is also a dietary generalist, consuming organisms from a variety of disparate taxa (Caso Chavez et al. 1986, Martinez-Palacios and Ross 1988). However, it is susceptible to malnourishment, apparently due to the requirement that a relatively large proportion of its diet be animal prey (Flores Nava et al. 1989, Martinez-Palacios et al. 1993).

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