Identification: Weber (1991, 1992) assigned sailfin catfishes to three genera and used the name Liposarcus multiradiatus for this species (a name used in some of the more recent literature). Armbruster (1997), after a detailed systematic review, placed the genus Liposarcus into the synonymy of Pterygoplichthys. Weber (1992) provided a key and distinguishing characteristics and photographs of specimens; Armbruster and Page (2006) present a revised key to species in the genus Pterygoplichthys (except P. ambrosettii). A few distinguishing characteristics also were given by Page and Burr (1991) and Page (1994).
Pterygoplichthys and other suckermouth armored catfishes (family Loricariidae) can be distinguished from native North American catfishes (Ictaluridae) by the presence of flexible bony plates (absent in ictalurids) and a ventral suctorial mouth (terminal in ictalurids). Pterygoplichthys is often confused with Hypostomus: these genera can be distinguished by the number of dorsal fin rays (7-8 in Hypostomus vs. 9-14 in Pterygoplichthys).
Impact of Introduction: Largely unknown. In Hawaii, the thousands of nesting tunnels excavated by male Pterygoplichthys in reservoir and stream banks have contributed to siltation problems (Devick 1989). Because of their abundance in Hawaii, Pterygoplichthys and other armored catfishes have the potential to affect native stream species negatively through competition for food and space (Devick 1989). In Florida, this species occupies waters adjacent to Everglades National Park and is considered a threat to the park (Courtenay 1989).
Male members of the genus Pterygoplichthys dig out river banks to create burrows in which an attracted female will lay and guard her eggs. In large numbers, this burrowing behavior by Pterygoplichthys contributes to problems with siltation. In addition, the burrows potentially destabilize the banks, leading to an increased rate of erosion (Nico et al. 2009). Diurnal aggregations of Pterygoplichthys can potentially alter nutrient dynamics by creating biogeochemical hotspots through nitrogen and phosphorus excretion and remineralization (Capps and Flecker 2013).
References: (click for full references)
Armbruster, J.W., and L.M. Page. 2006. Redescription of Pterygoplichthys punctatus
and description of a new species of Pterygoplichthys
(Siluriformes: Loricariidae). Neotropical Ichthyology 4(4):401-409. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1679-62252006000400003
Capps, K.A., and A.S. Flecker. 2013. Invasive fishes generate biogeochemical hotspots in a nutrient-limited system. PLoS ONE 8(1):e54093. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0054093.
Capps, K.A., L.G. Nico, M. Mendoza-Carranza, W. Arévlo-Frías, A.J. Ropicki, S.A. Heilpern, and R. Rodiles-Hernández. 2011. Salinity tolerance of non-native suckermouth armoured catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys) in south-eastern Mexico: implications for invasion and dispersal. Aquatic Conservtion: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 21:528-540.
Courtenay, W.R., Jr. 1989. Exotic fishes in the National Park System. Pages 237-252 in L. K. Thomas, editor. Proceedings of the 1986 conference on science in the national parks, volume 5. Management of exotic species in natural communities. U.S. National Park Service and George Wright Society, Washington, DC.
Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and J. R. Stauffer, Jr.. 1990. The introduced fish problem and the aquarium fish industry. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society 21(3):145-159.
Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D. A. Hensley, J. N. Taylor, and J. A. McCann. 1984. Distribution of exotic fishes in the continental United States. Pages 41-77 in W. R. Courtenay, Jr., and J. R. Stauffer, Jr., editors. Distribution, biology and management of exotic fishes. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.
Devick, W.S. 1988. Disturbances and fluctuations in the Wahiawa Reservoir ecosystem. Project F-14-R-12, Job 4, Study I. Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. 48 pp.
Devick, W.S. 1989. Disturbances and fluctuations in the Wahiawa Reservoir ecosystem. Project F-14-R-13, Job 4, Study I. Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. 30 pp.
Devick, W.S. 1991. Patterns of introductions of aquatic organisms to Hawaiian freshwater habitats. Pages 189-213 in new directions in research, management and conservation of Hawaiian freshwater stream ecosystems. Proceedings of the 1990 symposium on freshwater stream biology and fisheries management, Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Loftus, W.F., and J.A. Kushlan. 1987. Freshwater fishes of southern Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum of Biological Science 31(4):255.
Ludlow, M.E., and S.J. Walsh. 1991. Occurrence of a South American armored catfish in the Hillsborough River, Florida. Florida Scientist 54(1):48-5.
Nico, L.G., H.L. Jelks, and T. Tuten. 2009. Non-Native Suckermouth Armored Catfishes in Florida: Description of Nest Burrows and Burrow Colonies with Assessment of Shoreline Conditions. Aquatic Nuisance Species Research Program Bulletin 9(1): 1-30.
Page, L.M. 1994. Identification of sailfin catfishes introduced to Florida. Florida Scientist 57(4):171-172.
Weber, C. 1992. Révision du genre Pterygoplichthys sensu lato (Pisces, Siluriformes, Loricariidae). Revue Francaise d'Aquariologie 19:1-36.
This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.