All fish of the genus Nothobranchius are characterized by an annual life cycle. They inhabit a region characterized by a marked alternation of rainy and dry season. Nothobranchius species are mainly found in savannah of bushveld habitats and inhabits ephemeral bodies of water which disappear after the end of the rain season. Therefore, the maximum lifespan in the wild cannot exceed the duration of the habitats. The species reaches the next rainy season in the form of embryos which enter diapause and survive encased in the dry mud. It is of note that Nothobranchius often share their habitat with lungfishes (Protopterus sp.). Lungfishes are also adapted to survive desiccation, but in this case is the adult fish which aestivates in the dry mud.
The single most important limitation in the distribution of Nothobranchius is the soil. This aspect of Nothobranchius ecology was investigated in great detail and over many years by the geologist Brian Watters. In order to survive, Nothobranchius eggs require a vetrisol soil. The geographical presence/absence of Nothobranchius over their distribution range very well correlates with the presence/absence of this particular soil. In addition, attempts to relocate Nothobranchius in temporary habitats were no native Nothobranchius are present always failed to generate stable colonies. These data are also partially supported by a systematic study of Reichard and Polacik who studied the correlation of a number of habitat characteristics with presence/absence of N. furzeri and found a strong correlation with very soft soil and turbid water.
The diet of N. furzeri was studied in detail by Reichard and Polacik. N. furzeri is a generalist predator and feeds on a variety of small aquatic invertebrates with a preference for small crustaceans (Cladocera, Copepoda, Ostracoda and Conchostraca). It is of note that larvae of flies (Diptera), which represent the standard food offered to Nothobranchius under captive conditions, is a very seldom prey in the wild.
last update of this page: January 31, 2011
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