Evaluating growth, survival and swimming performance to determine the feasibility of telemetry for age-0 pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus)


Telemetry is valuable for understanding animal ecology and assessing conservation priorities. Sturgeon species worldwide are imperiled and telemetric methods have been applied to adults, but the feasibility of using this methodology on age-0 sturgeon remains unclear. The pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) is a federally endangered species in the central United States and little is known about its early life ecology. The use of telemetry on age-0 pallid sturgeon would greatly increase understanding of their early life ecology. We assessed growth, survival, and swimming performance of age-0 pallid sturgeon tagged with 0.2 g, nonfunctioning radio telemetry tags to determine whether radio telemetry can be used on such small sturgeon. Tags were surgically implanted internally and attached externally, with a control group that only experienced handling. Age-0 sturgeon with internally implanted tags grew slowly and had low survival, while counterparts within the control group and those with external tags grew faster and had almost 100% survival. No differences in critical swimming speed occurred among the internally tagged, externally tagged, and control fish. We suggest externally tagging age-0 sturgeon may be possible. However, a small telemetry transmitter that uses technology (e.g., ultrasonic) which transmits well in deep rivers while maintaining a minimum tag weight and maximizing battery life is needed.

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American Midland Naturalist