Before humans interfered, the Pilanesberg National Park would have had very few permanent water bodies; it is therefore understandable that fishes are not well represented in the park.
The few species of fish that share their aquatic home with the parks hippos, crocodiles, terrapins, and numerous invertebrates, remain unseen by most visitors to the Pilanesberg.
Although we tend to underestimate the importance of these fish, they contribute to the Pilanesberg National Park’s ecology, feeding on each other, on crabs, snails, countless insects, small water-plants, and in turn becomming food for a large variety of birds and mammals.
The African Fish Eagle and the Cape Clawless Otter being the most well known predators. Crabs and fresh water mussels are the favourite meal of the Cape Clawless Otter.
Well-known fish species include yellowfish (Barbus spp.), labeo or mudfish (Labeo spp.), tilapia (Tilapia spp.), and the very common sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus) or barbel. The sharptooth catfish is one of South Africa's most ecologically important fish species.
Barbel frequently reach a mass between 10 and 25 kilograms! This opportunistic catfish is an omnivorous scavenger or predator preferring the quiet waters of dams and pans, or the slow backwaters of rivers. Barbel have the extraordinary ability to survive in almost pure mud; waiting for the next rains. One can often see these extraordinarily tough survivors struggling desperately through the mud for air.
If the rains do not come, hundreds of these fish can be seen slowly gasping to death -- ending up as an easy meal for a horde of scavenging birds (especially the Marabou Stork) and mammals that feast on the unexpected food supply. Barbel are known to traverse open ground by a "slithering walk" to reach new a pool.
Note: "Fishes" is the proper English plural form of "fish" that biologists use when speaking about two or more fish species, as in "There are over 25,000 fishes in the world" (meaning that there are over 25,000 fish species in the world).
Interesting snippet: There are over 29,000 species of fish in the world, making them the most diverse group of vertebrates.
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