Habitat selection by three littoral zone fishes: Effects of predation pressure, plant density and macrophyte type

John Howard Chick, C. C. McIvor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We conducted laboratory experiments which demonstrated that three littoral zone fishes differentially selected among three macrophytes when seeking refuge from predation. In the presence of a predator (a juvenile Micropterus salmoides), mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna), and dollar sunfish (Lepomis marginatus) displayed differential use of four tank areas containing patches of either Hydrilla verticillata, Potamogeton illinoensis, Panicum hemitomon, or no plants. Patterns of habitat selection, and the consistency of these patterns among replicates, differed among the three fishes and among three plant-density treatments - natural (each macrophyte presented at its mean field density), equal (all three macrophytes at the same density), and control (no plants). Selection for H. verticillata by mosquitofish was significant for both the equal and natural treatments, and thus was not caused by differences in plant density alone. Sailfin mollies displayed significant selection for H. verticillata only in the natural plant-density treatments. Dollar sunfish showed less consistent habitat selection than either mosquitofish or sailfin mollies. Significant habitat selection was not found in the absence of a predator, and there was no evidence for selection among the tank areas in control treatments. Patterns of habitat selection by the. three fishes in our laboratory study corresponded to observed habitat use in Lake Okeechobee.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalEcology of Freshwater Fish
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Habitat selection
  • Macrophyte type
  • Plant density
  • Predation pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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