Long-term and sustainable management of invasive fish requires an understanding of annual patterns in distribution and migration. This study hypothesized that the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), an invasive temperate cyprinid fish, employs a complex multi-phase life history strategy that incorporates sequential partial migrations within an annual life cycle. This life cycle may explain its success and invasiveness. A large scale, multi-year, year-round tracking study was conducted in a large watershed of 12 interconnected lakes that is representative of much of North America where it is highly invasive. This is the first known large scale multi-year study on the movement of a partially migratory invasive fish. For three winters, over 90% of adult carp were observed to overwinter and form large aggregations in one lake. Once temperatures were between 5-10°C in the spring, most adults (82% in 2014, 98% in 2015, and 98% in 2016), but not all, performed migrations to shallow lakes to spawn. Of these, most (86% in 2014, 96% in 2015, and 100% in 2016) used one stream of four to migrate. Such a precise form of breeding partial migrations has not previously been documented. Most migratory adults (81%) were then observed using the same lakes each year during spawning. After spawning, some adults (46% in 2014 and 80% in 2015), but not all, left their lakes and then spent the majority of the summer, presumably feeding in just one or two lakes out of 12. This would appear to reflect a second partial migration and a tendency to use home summer feeding ranges. In the fall, most adult carp (57% in 2014 and 93% in 2015) then returned to same lake from which migrations began. This would appear to reflect a third partial migration associated with overwintering. This flexible life history strategy can be categorized by six phases: overwintering, breeding partial migration, spawning in home lakes, summer partial migrations, feeding in home lakes, and partial migration to an overwintering (refuge) lake. We also found evidence of homing in how carp selected migratory paths, spawning lakes, feeding lakes, and overwintering lakes. This flexible, but highly directed life history strategy is seemingly new and could explain the success and invasiveness of common carp while providing options for control.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. 2016. Major: Conservation Biology. Advisor: Peter Sorensen. 1 computer file (PDF); 139 pages.
Partial migration, homing, diel activity, and distribution of adult common carp across a large, model watershed in the North American Midwest.
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