Migration strategies in estuarine fishes typically include behavioral adaptations for reducing energetic costs and mortality during travel to optimize reproductive success. The influence of tidal currents and water turbidity on individual movement behavior were investigated during the spawning migration of the threatened delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, in the northern San Francisco Estuary, California, USA. Water current velocities and turbidity levels were measured concurrently with delta smelt occurrence at sites in the lower Sacramento River and San Joaquin River as turbidity increased due to first-flush winter rainstorms in January and December 2010. The presence/absence of fish at the shoal-channel interface and near the shoreline was quantified hourly over complete tidal cycles. Delta smelt were caught consistently at the shoal-channel interface during flood tides and near the shoreline during ebb tides in the turbid Sacramento River, but were rare in the clearer San Joaquin River. The apparent selective tidal movements by delta smelt would facilitate either maintaining position or moving upriver on flood tides, and minimizing advection down-estuary on ebb tides. These movements also may reflect responses to lateral gradients in water turbidity created by temporal lags in tidal velocities between the near-shore and mid-channel habitats. This migration strategy can minimize the energy spent swimming against strong river and tidal currents, as well as predation risks by remaining in turbid water. Selection pressure on individuals to remain in turbid water may underlie population-level observations suggesting that turbidity is a key habitat feature and cue initiating the delta smelt spawning migration.
|Title||Riders on the storm: selective tidal movements facilitate the spawning migration of threatened delta smelt in the San Francisco Estuary|
|Authors||W.A. Bennett, Jon R. Burau|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Estuaries and Coasts|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||California Water Science Center|