Comparison of behavior and space use of the European bullhead Cottus gobio and the round goby Neogobius melanostomus in a simulated natural habitat.
The round goby is an invasive fish in Europe and North America that threatens native species by predation and competition. Its habitat preferences are similar to those of the European bullhead, which it displaces from shelters and out-competes for available resources. We assessed the microhabitat preferences, shelter use, and activity of the round goby and European bullhead in single-species experiments in habitat simulator systems to investigate their behavior in a novel environment. Fish were video-recorded for 28 h in the presence of shelter and feed with water velocity ranging from 0.00 to 0.96 m s-1. The two species showed similar behavior under given conditions. A primary difference was in stress-induced behavior in the initial phases of observation. The round goby spent more time in movement when outside the shelter and a longer time in the escape zone in the exploration period during light. Our results confirmed a significant preference of round goby for low velocity areas and a preference for higher velocities in the European bullhead. Both species were able to cope with velocities > 0.7 m s-1. Therefore, the reported invasion success of round goby is probably not driven by space use or activity patterns, but rather by higher adaptability.