Behavior and reproductive ecology of the Sicklefin Redhorse: An imperiled southern Appalachian Mountain fish

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
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Many nongame fishes are poorly understood but are essential to maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems globally. The undescribed Sicklefin Redhorse Moxostoma sp. is a rare, imperiled, nongame fish endemic to two southern Appalachian Mountain river basins. Little is known of its behavior and ecology, but this information is urgently needed for conservation planning. We assessed the spatial and temporal bounds of spawning migration, quantified seasonal weekly movement patterns, and characterized seasonal and spawning behavior using radiotelemetry and weir sampling in the Hiwassee River basin, North Carolina–Georgia, during 2006 and 2007. Hiwassee River tributaries were occupied predominantly during the fish's spawning season, lower reaches of the tributaries and the Hiwassee River were primarily occupied during the postspawning season (i.e., summer and fall), and lower lotic reaches of Hiwassee River (upstream from Hiwassee Lake) were occupied during winter. Adults occupied Hiwassee Lake only as a movement corridor during spawning migrations. Both sexes conducted upstream spawning migrations simultaneously, but males occupied spawning tributaries longer than females. Sicklefin Redhorse exhibited interannual spawning‐area and tributary fidelity. Cold water temperatures associated with hypolimnetic releases from reservoirs and meteorological conditions influenced spawning migration distance and timing. During 2007, decreased discharges during the spawning season were associated with decreases in migration distance and spawning tributary occupancy duration. Foraging was the dominant behavior observed annually, followed by reproductive behaviors (courting and spawning) during the spawning season. No agonistic reproductive behavior was observed, but females exhibited a repetitious postspawning digging behavior that may be unique in the family Catostomidae. Our findings suggest that protection and restoration of river continuity, natural flow regimes, seasonally appropriate water temperatures, and geographic range expansion are critical components to include in Sicklefin Redhorse conservation planning. Fisheries and ecosystem managers can use our findings to justify sensitive management decisions that conserve and restore critical streams and rivers occupied by this imperiled species.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Behavior and reproductive ecology of the Sicklefin Redhorse: An imperiled southern Appalachian Mountain fish
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1002/tafs.10010
Volume 147
Issue 1
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 19 p.
First page 204
Last page 222
Country United States
Other Geospatial Hiwassee River
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