A review of the biology of Gambusia affinis and G. holbrooki

Graham H. Pyke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

354 Citations (Scopus)


Eastern and Western Gambusia (i.e., Gambusia holbrooki and G. affinis, respectively) are considered together here because these two fish species are very closely related, similar in appearance, similar in biology and often confused. Widely divergent attitudes have developed with regard to these fish with some viewing them as being highly beneficial to humans through controlling mosquitoes and the diseases they harbor, and others expressing concern about the negative impacts that these fish may have on other species with which they interact. Because of the widespread distribution, high levels of abundance, ease of capture and captive maintenance, and divergent attitudes, a very large and diffuse literature has developed with regard to these species. In fact, few fish species have been studied as much as or more than these two species combined. There has, however, been no comprehensive review of their biology published to date. As it is not possible to provide a comprehensive review of Gambusia biology in one reasonably sized document, I provide here a review of aspects of their biology at the level of species and individual. In another review I focused instead on the levels of population and species communities and consider the impacts that these fish have on mosquitoes and other organisms (Pyke, unpublished). As would be expected of such widespread and abundant species, Gambusia affinis and G. holbrooki are clearly very tolerant, adaptable and variable in their biology, at both an individual and population level. Both individuals and populations can tolerate, and often thrive within, a wide range of conditions and the abilities of individuals to do this are enhanced if they have time to acclimate to any changes. Populations can adapt through genetic or evolutionary changes in response to conditions that vary in space or time, and there is significant genetic variation within and between populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-365
Number of pages27
JournalReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Biology
  • Gambusia affinis
  • Gambusia holbrooki
  • Review


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