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Population dynamics and feeding ecology of the invasive Caucasian dwarf goby,

Population dynamics and feeding patterns of invasive Knipowitschia caucasica were studied in the littoral zone of the lower Stugna River. The abundances of this goby showed significant inter-annual and seasonal fluctuations. The studied population of K. caucasica was represented by two age groups (0 and I). Fish die after their first breeding season. In total, 58 prey items were identified in the diet of K. caucasica at the sampling site. The most abundant prey were copepods and cladocerans, while the most frequently encountered prey were copepods and chironomid larvae. Copepods were represented mainly by Cyclopoidae. Cladocerans included 21 taxa, among which the most abundant were Diaphanosoma sp., Acroperus harpae, and Disparalona rostrata; chironomids included 22 taxa, among which the most abundant was Cricotopus sylvestris. The diet composition showed seasonal dynamics, where copepods predominated in January to April and in August-September, chironomid larvae were especially important in May to July, while cladocerans were most important in November-December. The relatively high diversity of both phytophilous and open-bottom-dwelling prey organisms in the stomach contents of K. caucasica indicates that this species fed on a large variety of benthic habitats including among macrophytes and open areas.

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