Testing the short-term effects of a fish invader on the trophic ecology of a closely related species.
The effects of invaders on native species are usually tested using species mean trait values over long time scales. However, considering individual variation over short timescales can help us better understand the interaction between invaders and native species. We compared trophic traits of the non-native guppy (Poecilia reticulata) and the native Brazilian poeciliid Phalloceros harpagos using experiments simulating the early stages of an invasive process. We used short-term mesocosms to simulate an early invasion scenario, where the two species were placed together, and a pre-invasion scenario, where species were kept separated, and analyzed interspecific and intraspecific trophic variability. We also compared the foraging efficiency of species in laboratory experiments. We found no differences on the mean diet of both species between pre and early invasion treatments. At the individual level, in the early invasion scenario, individuals of both species reduced their trophic niche as a probable effect of the presence of the heterospecific. Phalloceros harpagos had higher consumption rates than guppies indicating greater efficiency in feeding on invertebrates. Our results suggest that non-native species were not intrinsically better consumers of high-quality resources. Instead, intraspecific variation might be playing an overlooked role in shaping interactions between species during the early stages of invasion.