Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Conservation Biology


Biological Sciences

Major Professor

Cashner, Robert C.

Second Advisor

O'Connell, Martin

Third Advisor

Stevenson, Michael M.

Fourth Advisor

Jordan, Frank

Fifth Advisor

Howard, Jerome J.


The Rio Grande cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) has been established in the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area (GNOMA) for at least 20 years. It is often the most common fish species in urban canals and has also been found in natural waterways outside of the GNOMA. The effects and potential for further spread of H. cyanoguttatus is uncertain. My research addressed how extensive the cichlids spread in the GNOMA, how H. cyanoguttatus interacted with L. macrochirus, a native fish, and what salinity tolerance this species has. Surveys on Lake Pontchartrain and in the GNOMA indicated that H. cyanoguttatus is well established in urban habitats. These surveys also indicate that H. cyanoguttatus has spread rapidly into Bayou Saint John and City Park in recent years and that H. cyanoguttatus populations were relatively unaffected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There is little evidence that H. cyanoguttatus has become established outside of the GNOMA, but this lack of persistence cannot be explained by abiotic variables I measured. Salinity may be a factor and this was measured in growth trials of H. cyanoguttatus. Salinities up to 16 ppt, however, had no significant effect on H. cyanoguttatus growth. Interspecific behavioral experiments were conducted to examine potential biotic interactions with native fish species. Prior resident trials indicated that H. cyanoguttatus was aggressive whether holding territory or not, and that native bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) was only aggressive while holding territory. Feeding experiments were performed to examine biotic interactions between H. cyanoguttatus and L. macrochirus. Lepomis macrochirus grew faster than H. cyanoguttatus when inter- and intraspecific trials were compared; however, no significant growth differences were seen when trials were structured with L. macrochirus as prior residents. The major findings of my research are a high salinity tolerance of H. cyanoguttatus, a potential mechanism for H. cyanoguttatus affecting native fishes through aggression as residents and invaders, and the presence of H. cyanoguttatus throughout the GNOMA, before and after the hurricanes.


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