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Concept: Fish of the United States


Recently, there has been growing recognition that fish harvesting practices can have important impacts on the phenotypic distributions and diversity of natural populations through a phenomenon known as fisheries-induced evolution. Here we experimentally show that two common recreational angling techniques (active crank baits versus passive soft plastics) differentially target wild largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) based on variation in their behavioural tendencies. Fish were first angled in the wild using both techniques and then brought back to the laboratory and tested for individual-level differences in common estimates of personality (refuge emergence, flight-initiation-distance, latency-to-recapture and with a net, and general activity) in an in-lake experimental arena. We found that different angling techniques appear to selectively target these species based on their boldness (as characterized by refuge emergence, a standard measure of boldness in fishes) but not other assays of personality. We also observed that body size was independently a significant predictor of personality in both species, though this varied between traits and species. Our results suggest a context-dependency for vulnerability to capture relative to behaviour in these fish species. Ascertaining the selective pressures angling practices exert on natural populations is an important area of fisheries research with significant implications for ecology, evolution, and resource management.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Catch and release, Largemouth bass, Centrarchidae, Fish of the United States, Black bass, Rock bass


Body size governs predator-prey interactions, which in turn structure populations, communities, and food webs. Understanding predator-prey size relationships is valuable from a theoretical perspective, in basic research, and for management applications. However, predator-prey size data are limited and costly to acquire. We quantified predator-prey total length and mass relationships for several freshwater piscivorous taxa: crappie (Pomoxis spp.), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), northern pike (Esox lucius), rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), and walleye (Sander vitreus). The range of prey total lengths increased with predator total length. The median and maximum ingested prey total length varied with predator taxon and length, but generally ranged from 10-20% and 32-46% of predator total length, respectively. Predators tended to consume larger fusiform prey than laterally compressed prey. With the exception of large muskellunge, predators most commonly consumed prey between 16 and 73 mm. A sensitivity analysis indicated estimates can be very accurate at sample sizes greater than 1,000 diet items and fairly accurate at sample sizes greater than 100. However, sample sizes less than 50 should be evaluated with caution. Furthermore, median log10 predator-prey body mass ratios ranged from 1.9-2.5, nearly 50% lower than values previously reported for freshwater fishes. Managers, researchers, and modelers could use our findings as a tool for numerous predator-prey evaluations from stocking size optimization to individual-based bioenergetics analyses identifying prey size structure. To this end, we have developed a web-based user interface to maximize the utility of our models that can be found at

Concepts: Predation, Centrarchidae, Fish of the United States, Black bass, Northern pike, Muskellunge, Fauna of the United States, Fish of the Great Lakes


Mercury (Hg) levels in Ontario top predator fishes have been increasing in recent decades. These increases may be a result of many additive factors, including global climate change. Only recently has research been conducted on how climate change may impact Hg levels in freshwater fishes at large-scales. We examined the relationship between Hg trends and (1) local weather, (2) large-scale climate drivers, and (3) anthropogenic Hg emissions, in native cool water (walleye and northern pike) and warm water (smallmouth bass and largemouth bass) predatory fishes in Ontario, Canada, for historical (1970-1992) and recent (1993-2014) time periods. For each fish species studied, > 25% of Ontario’s secondary watersheds shifted from historically declining to recently increasing fish Hg trends, and ≥ 50% of watersheds experienced increasing trends between 1993 and 2014. Recent fish Hg increased at up to 0.20µg/g/decade; which were significant (p < 0.05) for walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass. Multiple linear regressions revealed a complex interplay of local weather, large-scale climate drivers, and anthropogenic Hg emissions influencing fish Hg levels. Recent Hg levels for walleye and largemouth bass increased with changes in global climate drivers, while higher precipitation influenced smallmouth bass Hg levels the most. Walleye Hg levels increased during the positive phases of global climate drivers, reflecting the local influence of local temperatures and precipitation indirectly. Differentiating the effects of climate-related parameters and emissions is increasingly crucial to assess how changing multiple environmental stressors may impact health of wildlife and humans consuming fish.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Climate change, Meteorology, Ocean, Solar variation, Global warming, Fish of the United States


Biological markers (biomarkers) sensitive to genotoxic and mutagenic contamination in fishes are widely used to identify exposure effects in aquatic environments. The micronucleus assay was incorporated into a suite of indicators to assess exposure to genotoxic and mutagenic contamination at five Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs), as well as one non-AOC (reference) site. The assay allowed enumeration of micronuclei as well as other nuclear abnormalities for both site and species comparisons. Erythrocyte abnormality data was also compared to skin and liver tumor prevalence and hepatic transcript abundance. Erythrocyte abnormalities were observed at all sites with variable occurrence and severity among sites and species. Benthic-oriented brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and white sucker (Catostomus commersonii) expressed lower rates of erythrocyte abnormalities, but higher rates of skin and liver neoplasms, when compared to pelagic-oriented largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) or smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) at the same site. The reduced erythrocyte abnormalities, increased transcript abundance associated with Phase I and II toxicant responsive pathways, and increased neoplastic lesions among benthic-oriented taxa may indicate the development of contaminant resistance of these species to more acute effects. Environ. Mol. Mutagen., 2017. © 2017 This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Environmental Mutagen Society.

Concepts: Cancer, United States, Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, Centrarchidae, Fish of the United States, Smallmouth bass, Black bass


Environmental studies increasingly identify the presence of both contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) and legacy contaminants in aquatic environments; however, the biological effects of these compounds on resident fishes remain largely unknown. High throughput methodologies were employed to establish partial transcriptomes for three wild-caught, non-model fish species; smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), white sucker (Catostomus commersonii) and brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus). Sequences from these transcriptome databases were utilized in the development of a custom nCounter CodeSet that allowed for direct multiplexed measurement of 50 transcript abundance endpoints in liver tissue. Sequence information was also utilized in the development of quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) primers. Cross-species hybridization allowed the smallmouth bass nCounter CodeSet to be used for quantitative transcript abundance analysis of an additional non-model species, largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). We validated the nCounter analysis data system with qPCR for a subset of genes and confirmed concordant results. Changes in transcript abundance biomarkers between sexes and seasons were evaluated to provide baseline data on transcript modulation for each species of interest.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Largemouth bass, Brown bullhead, Centrarchidae, Fish of the United States, Smallmouth bass, Black bass, Nightcrawlers


From the 1940s through 1977, at least 590,000kg of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were released into the Hudson River from General Electric manufacturing plants located in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, New York. In 1984, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated a nearly 322km reach as the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site. Here we describe a Fish Health Assessment study, part of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment, that evaluated the prevalence of toxicopathic lesions in adult brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), and yellow perch (Perca flavescens). In fall 2001, 29-51 fish of each species were collected in fall 2001 from highly contaminated areas below the plants (Thompson Island Pool (TIP) and Stillwater Dam Pool (STW)), an upriver reference area (Feeder Dam Pool (FDP)), and a reference lake, Oneida Lake (ODA). The focus was on histopathologic lesions and observations associated with contaminant exposure: liver-neoplasms, foci of cellular alteration, bile duct hyperplasia; testes-ovotestis (testicular oocytes), germ cell degeneration, altered developmental stage; ovaries-atresia and altered developmental stage. Lesions associated with PCB exposure were defined as those with significantly greater prevalence and/or severity in TIP and STW compared with ODA and FDP. For brown bullhead and smallmouth bass, no lesions or changes in gonadal development met those criteria. In yellow perch, ovarian atresia was the only lesion associated with PCB exposure. Prevalence was 53% in FDP, 75% in ODA, and 100% in both STW and TIP; severity increased from mostly minimal to mild-moderate. Because of the high prevalence of atresia in reference collections, it is likely that factors other than PCBs are also involved. As part of a post-dredging monitoring plan, we recommend assessing gonad structure and function in yellow perch collected at the time of spawning in locations with a range of PCB contamination.

Concepts: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Perch, Polychlorinated biphenyl, Biphenyl, Hudson River, Fish of the United States, Smallmouth bass, General Electric


Widespread human development has led to impairment of freshwater coastal wetlands and embayments, which provide critical and unique habitat for many freshwater fish species. This is particularly evident in the Laurentian Great Lakes, where such habitats have been severely altered over the last century as a result of industrial activities, urbanization, dredging and infilling. In Toronto Harbour, extensive restoration efforts have been directed towards improving the amount and quality of aquatic habitat, especially for fishes. To evaluate the effectiveness of this restoration work, use of the restored area by both target species and the fish community as a whole must be assessed. Individuals from four species (Common Carp, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike and Yellow Perch) were tagged and tracked continuously for 1 year using an acoustic telemetry array in Toronto Harbour area of Lake Ontario. Daily site fidelity was estimated using a mixed-effects logistic regression model. Daily site fidelity was influenced by habitat restoration and its interactions with species and body size, as well as season and its interactions with species and body size. Daily site fidelity was higher in restored sites compared to non-restored sites for Yellow Perch and Northern Pike, but lower for Largemouth Bass and Common Carp. For all species, daily site fidelity estimates were highest during the summer and lowest during autumn. The approach used here has merit for evaluating restoration success and informing future habitat management activities. Creating diverse habitats that serve multiple functions and species are more desirable than single-function-oriented or single-species-oriented designs.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Fish, Freshwater fish, Toronto, Great Lakes, Fish of the United States, Northern pike, Lake Ontario


Anthropogenic alterations to terrestrial habitat (e.g., urbanization, deforestation, agriculture) can have a variety of negative effects on watercourses that flow through disturbed landscapes. Currently, the relationship between stream habitat quality and fish condition remains poorly understood. The use of physiological metrics such as glucocorticoids (GCs) provides a useful tool for quantifying these effects by relating the health of resident fishes to stream quality. To date, however, most studies that measure GC levels tend to focus on a single, large-bodied species, rather than evaluating how GCs may be influenced differently between species in a community. In this study, we measured cortisol, the glucocorticoid found in fishes, from fish tissues to quantify effects of habitat degradation on the glucocorticoid function of five species of juvenile and small-bodied stream fish which differ ecologically and phylogenetically. Largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides, brown bullhead Ameiurus nebulosus, white sucker Catostomus commersonii, pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus, and logperch Percina caprodes were sampled from a reference and a degraded stream. Upon capture, fish were either euthanized immediately, to quantify baseline stress parameters, or following a standardized stressor, to quantify GC responsiveness. As a result of stream degradation largemouth bass possessed altered baseline GC concentrations and brown bullhead and logperch had altered GC responses to a stressor. White sucker and pumpkinseed did not demonstrate any alteration in baseline or post-stress GC concentrations. Together, our results show that different species residing in identical habitats can demonstrate a variety of responses to environmental stress, highlighting the variation in physiological ability to cope under poor environmental conditions, as well as the difficulty of predicting GC dynamics in wild animals. Understanding the relationships between GC function, habitat quality, and population-level processes will increase the ability of researchers and managers to predict how fish communities and aquatic ecosystems will be shaped by anthropogenic environmental change.

Concepts: Habitat, Biology, Largemouth bass, Brown bullhead, Bullhead, Centrarchidae, Fish of the United States, Black bass


There is a poor understanding of the importance of biotic interactions in determining species distributions with climate change. Theory from invasion biology suggests that the success of species introductions outside of their historical ranges may be either positively (biotic acceptance) or negatively (biotic resistance) related to native biodiversity. Using data on fish community composition from two survey periods separated by approximately 28 years during which climate was warming, we examined the factors influencing the establishment of three predatory centrarchids: Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu), Largemouth Bass (M. salmoides) and Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris) in lakes at their expanding northern range boundaries in Ontario. Variance partitioning demonstrated that, at a regional scale, abiotic factors play a stronger role in determining the establishment of these species than biotic factors. Pairing lakes within watersheds where each species had established with lakes sharing similar abiotic conditions where the species had not established revealed both positive and negative relationships between the establishment of centrarchids and the historical presence of other predatory species. The establishment of these species near their northern range boundaries is primarily determined by abiotic factors at a regional scale, however, biotic factors become important at the lake-to-lake scale. Studies of exotic species invasions have previously highlighted how spatial scale mediates the importance of abiotic versus biotic factors on species establishment. Our study demonstrates how concepts from invasion biology can inform our understanding of the factors controlling species distributions with changing climate. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Biology, Ecology, Biotic component, Centrarchidae, Fish of the United States, Smallmouth bass, Black bass, Abiotic component


The effectiveness of several non-lethal techniques as indicators of total lipid content in smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu, walleye Sander vitreus and channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus was investigated. The techniques included (1) the Fulton and relative condition factors, (2) relative mass, (3) plasma indicators of nutritional status (alkaline phosphatase, calcium, cholesterol, protein, triglycerides and glucose) and (4) readings from a hand-held, microwave energy meter. Although simple linear regression analysis showed that lipid content was significantly correlated with several predictor variables in each species, the r(2) values for the relations ranged from 0·17 to 0·50 and no single approach was consistent for all species. Only one model, between energy-meter readings and lipid content in I. punctatus, had an r(2) value (0·83) high enough to justify using it as a predictive tool. Results indicate that no single variable was an accurate and reliable indicator of whole body lipid content in these fishes, except the energy meter for I. punctatus.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Linear regression, Metabolism, Catfish, Fish of the United States, Edible fish, Smallmouth bass, Channel catfish