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Influence of lamprey rearing type on measures of performance

March 31, 2023

Declines in populations of Pacific Lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus) have raised concerns by the Columbia River tribes, who then initiated efforts to protect and restore them throughout their historical range. The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) devised a restoration plan for lamprey in the Columbia River Basin which highlights the significance of lamprey to the tribes and recommends conservation actions. The plan calls for the development of artificial propagation (AP) protocols to provide fish for research (e.g., downstream passage studies) and restoration activities (e.g., supplemental releases into streams/rivers). The ideal outcome of these efforts would be cultured fish that are comparable to the corresponding wild fish, and efforts are underway to conduct such evaluations in larval and juvenile lamprey.

The CRITFC lamprey restoration plan lists improving dam passage for juvenile and larval lamprey as a high priority action. Active telemetry techniques have not been an option until recently, when a prototype micro acoustic transmitter was designed for small, elongate fishes like lamprey and eels. Passage survival studies of juvenile and larval lamprey using acoustic telemetry are now possible but are challenged with the limited availability of research animals. The use of AP fish would facilitate passage survival studies, under the assumption that AP juvenile and larval lamprey perform and survive comparably to the wild lamprey they are intended to represent. The current study was enacted to add to the growing knowledge of how reliably AP lamprey can be used as surrogates for wild lamprey. Study objectives were to: 1) compare the swimming ability of AP and wild juvenile lamprey implanted with the prototype micro acoustic transmitter and 2) compare the performance of AP and wild larval lamprey by
evaluating night activity levels, burrowing ability, and photokinetic response to tail illumination over a period of 5-months in a culture setting.

Evaluations of juvenile lamprey sustained swimming performance did not reveal any differences between tagged and untagged lamprey of AP or wild origin. We standardized the stage of transformation for all tested lamprey to minimize variation. Our tests were constrained by limited access to juvenile lamprey, so significant differences between rearing types may have gone undetected. More information on how rearing type influences other lamprey life stages and swimming performance will add to the growing knowledge on how reliably AP lamprey can serve as surrogates for wild lamprey.

We compared AP and wild larval lamprey using three performance metrics, both shortly after they arrived at our laboratory and through a 5-month study period. Within the AP and wild test groups, we divided lamprey into small (30-70 mm total length) and large (80-120 mm total length) size categories, forming four test groups. Each of the test groups were comprised of 25 lamprey and were held in separate tanks. These tanks were the source of test fish for all performance testing. Our results for 2 of 3 of the performance metrics showed no differences between rearing types, and we found limited evidence to suggest that duration in a culture setting changed performance. Night activity levels were low for all test groups. Burrowing times were significantly different by rearing type, with wild lamprey burrowing faster than AP lamprey, in both the small and large size categories. These significant differences in rearing type could be a concern for use of AP lamprey for restoration or research needs, but they may not be biologically meaningful. Both AP and wild lamprey completed burrowing in median times of less than 1 min, which minimizes concerns about predation risk. Additional opportunities to evaluate burrowing performance of AP and wild larval lamprey would be helpful to inform future planned uses of AP lamprey. Finally, our evaluations of photokinetic response to tail illumination revealed similar proportions of AP and wild larvae moving in response to illumination, and no significant
differences in response time between the groups. The wild lamprey, however, consistently had faster (but not significantly) response times than AP fish. This finding supports the significantly faster burrowing times we observed for wild lamprey compared to AP fish. Taken together, these lines of evidence raise some concerns for the ability of AP lamprey to serve as defensible surrogates for wild lamprey because the ability to reliably burrow is so critical for larvae. Burrowing performance and photokinetic response to tail illumination were both easy to measure and will be valuable metrics for evaluating rearing types in future studies.

Publication Year 2023
Title Influence of lamprey rearing type on measures of performance
Authors Theresa L. Liedtke, Lisa K. Weiland, Mary L. Moser, Kinsey Frick, Ralph Lampman, Aaron D. Jackson, Ann Gannam, James Baron, Brian K. Ekstrom
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70246956
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center