, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 65-77
Date: 02 Mar 2010

Ontogenetic behavior of Kootenai River White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, with a note on body color: A laboratory study

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Laboratory studies indicated the following ontogenetic behavior and body color of wild Kootenai River White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, (hereafter, Kootenai Sturgeon), a landlocked population in the Kootenai River, a major tributary of the Columbia River (United States) and Kootenay Lake (Canada). Hatchling free embryos (hereafter, embryos) are photonegative and hide under cover at a spawning site, and have a grey body. Late-embryos are photopositive and weakly prefer white substrate, use cover less with age, and develop a black tail. Day 13 larvae forage in the day on the open bottom, use cover less with age, prefer bright habitat, have a light-grey body and black tail, and initiate a mostly nocturnal dispersal for about 21 days, and then, continue a weaker dispersal. As they age, the entire body and tail of larvae is a dark-grey color when they develop into juveniles (about 66 days). The common body and tail color of larvae from the Kootenai, Columbia, and Sacramento rivers indicate a common adaptation to signal conspecifics or avoid predators. Juveniles are variable for foraging height, do not hide in bottom cover, and continue a weak nocturnal downstream movement. Movement of larvae and juveniles in the artificial stream suggests wild Kootenai Sturgeon have a long slow dispersal style (disperse for months). The long dispersal style of young Kootenai Sturgeon may adapt larvae to dispersing all summer in a 100–200 km long reach with a low abundance of food. The final destination of Kootenai Sturgeon during their first rearing season is unknown, but the long dispersal suggests fish could easily move to the lower river or to Kootenay Lake. Ontogenetic behavior of Kootenai Sturgeon is slightly different from Columbia River White Sturgeon, which has a weak embryo dispersal, but both populations have a similar major dispersal by larvae. However, both of these populations differ qualitatively from Sacramento River White Sturgeon, in which juveniles initiate the major dispersal. Thus, major geographic behavioral variation exists among populations and should be considered in restoration programs.