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Hydrobiologia. 2019;832(1):235-253. doi: 10.1007/s10750-018-3597-9. Epub 2018 Apr 4.

Widespread colonisation of Tanzanian catchments by introduced Oreochromis tilapia fishes: the legacy from decades of deliberate introduction.

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1Department of Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries, University of Dar es Salaam, P.O. Box 35064, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
2Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), P.O. Box 9750, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
3School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, BS8 1TQ UK.
4Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, Darwin Building, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT UK.
5School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW UK.
6Department of Life Sciences, Centre for Research in Ecology, Whitelands College, University of Roehampton, Holybourne Avenue, London, SW15 4JD UK.
7Evolutionary and Environmental Genomics Group, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, HU5 7RX UK.


From the 1950s onwards, programmes to promote aquaculture and improve capture fisheries in East Africa have relied heavily on the promise held by introduced species. In Tanzania these introductions have been poorly documented. Here we report the findings of surveys of inland water bodies across Tanzania between 2011 and 2017 that clarify distributions of tilapiine cichlids of the genus Oreochromis. We identified Oreochromis from 123 sampling locations, including 14 taxa restricted to their native range and three species that have established populations beyond their native range. Of these three species, the only exotic species found was blue-spotted tilapia (Oreochromis leucostictus), while Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Singida tilapia (Oreochromis esculentus), which are both naturally found within the country of Tanzania, have been translocated beyond their native range. Using our records, we developed models of suitable habitat for the introduced species based on recent (1960-1990) and projected (2050, 2070) East African climate. These models indicated that presence of suitable habitat for these introduced species will persist and potentially expand across the region. The clarification of distributions provided here can help inform the monitoring and management of biodiversity, and inform policy related to the future role of introduced species in fisheries and aquaculture.


Aquaculture; Capture fisheries; Cichlid; Invasive species; Oreochromis; Tilapia

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