Verification of a ‘freshwater-type’ life history variant of juvenile American shad in the Columbia River

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American shad are native to the Atlantic coast of North America and were successfully introduced to the Pacific coast in the 1870s. They are now more abundant in the Columbia River than are its native salmon. As in their native range, Columbia River American shad are anadromous and have been assumed to solely exhibit an ‘ocean-type’ life history, characterized by a short period of juvenile rearing in freshwater, followed by seaward migration and saltwater entry before age-1, with sexually mature individuals returning to freshwater to spawn beginning at age-3. During October 2007, emigrating juvenile American shad were captured in the juvenile fish monitoring facility at Bonneville Dam (river kilometer 235) on the Columbia River. Their length frequencies revealed the presence of two modes; the lower mode averaged 77 mm fork length (FL) and the upper mode averaged 184 mm FL. A subsample of fish from each mode was aged using otoliths. Otoliths from the lower mode (n=10) had no annuli, indicating that they were all age-0, while otoliths from the upper mode (n=25) had one or two annuli, indicating that they were either age-1 or age-2, respectively. Spawning adults collected in June 2007 averaged 393 mm FL (range 305-460 mm; n=21) and were estimated to range in age from 3-6. Elemental analyses of juvenile and adult otoliths provide evidence for deviations from the typical migration pattern expected for this species, including extensive freshwater rearing of up to two years. This evidence shows that a ‘freshwater-type’ of juvenile American shad exists as year-round or transient residents in the Columbia River basin. The ecological role of this life history variant within the fish community is unknown.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Unnumbered Series
Title Verification of a ‘freshwater-type’ life history variant of juvenile American shad in the Columbia River
DOI 10.3133/70043650
Year Published 2011
Publisher U.S Geological Survey
Publisher location Portland, OR
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description 16 p.
First page 106
Last page 121
Country United States
State Idaho, Oregon, Washington
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