On the occurrence of three non-native cichlid species including the first record of a feral population of Pelmatolapia (Tilapia) mariae (Boulenger, 1899) in Europe

R Soc Open Sci. 2017 Jun 21;4(6):170160. doi: 10.1098/rsos.170160. eCollection 2017 Jun.


Thermally influenced freshwater systems provide suitable conditions for non-native species of tropical and subtropical origin to survive and form proliferating populations beyond their native ranges. In Germany, non-native convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) and tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) have established populations in the Gillbach, a small stream that receives warm water discharge from a local power plant. Here, we report on the discovery of spotted tilapia (Pelmatolapia mariae) in the Gillbach, the first record of a reproducing population of this species in Europe. It has been hypothesized that Oreochromis sp. in the Gillbach are descendants of aquaculture escapees and our mtDNA analysis found both O. mossambicus and O. niloticus maternal lineages, which are commonly used for hybrids in aquaculture. Convict cichlids and spotted tilapia were most probably introduced into the Gillbach by aquarium hobbyists. Despite their high invasiveness worldwide, we argue that all three cichlid species are unlikely to spread and persist permanently beyond the thermally influenced range of the Gillbach river system. However, convict cichlids from the Gillbach are known to host both native and non-native fish parasites and thus, non-native cichlids may constitute threats to the native fish fauna. We therefore strongly recommend continuous monitoring of the Gillbach and similar systems.

Keywords: biological invasion; invasion biology; non-native species; thermally influenced freshwater systems; thermally polluted; tilapia.

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3804706
  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.sd7vh