Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The influence of environmental variables on the density of larval lampreys in different seasons


The objective of the study was to identify a subset of a set of twenty environmental variables which could explain variations in the density of larval lampreys (Geotria australis) in a south-western Australian stream. Generalised linear modelling, assuming Poisson distributions for the larval counts, led to a different model for each of the four seasons, with variations in larval density being explained in each season by a combination of between five and eight environmental variables. The influence of stream region also had to be taken into account in the model for winter.

Four environmental variables (substrate organic material and chlorophyll a, macrophyte roots and low-angle shading) were present in three of the four seasonal models. A further six variables (water depth, substrate depth and profile, medium-sized sands, light intensity, and the presence of an eddy) were each found useful for two models. Two variables (current velocity and substrate profile) were each retained in one model. Eight of the twenty variables were not required for any of the seasonal models. The importance of organic material, shade, eddies, current velocity substrate particle size and a sufficient depth of substrate in our models agree with the largely subjective assessments of larval lamprey habitats made in the field by many previous workers for other lamprey species in diverse geographical localities.

Our finding that larval density increased with increases in organic material and unicellular algae in the substrate and with shade, contrasts with the results of a different model based on data collected in a northern European stream. These differences can be related to our use of a more rigorous and comprehensive sampling regime and a more appropriate form of statistical analysis.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Aitkin M (1979) A simultaneous test procedure for contingency table models. Appl Stat 28:233–242

  2. Applegate VC (1950) Natural history of the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus in Michigan. U.S. Dep Int Fish Wildl Serv Spec Sci Rep 55

  3. Baker RJ, Nelder JA (1978) The GLIM System Release 3 Manual. Numerical Algorithms Group, Oxford

  4. Beamish FWH, Potter IC (1975) The biology of the anadromous sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) in New Brunswick. J Zool 177:57–72

  5. Beamish RJ (1980) Adult biology of the river lamprey (Lampetra ayresi) and the Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) from the Pacific coast of Canada. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 37:1906–1923

  6. Bishop YMM, Fienberg SE and Holland PW (1977) Discrete Multivariate Analysis: Theory and Applications. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts

  7. Booth RG, Usher MB (1984) Arthropod communities in a maritime antarctic moss-turf habitat: effects of the physical and chemical environment. J Anim Ecol 53:879–893

  8. Briggs D (1977) Particle size analysis. Sources and methods in Geography: Sediments. Butterworths, London

  9. Churchill WS (1947) The brook lamprey in the Brule River. Trans Wisconsin Acad Sci Arts Lett 37:337–346

  10. Creaser CW, Hann CS (1929) The food of larval lampreys. Occas Pap Michigan Acad Sci 10:433–437

  11. Davidson J, Andrewartha HG (1948) The influence of rainfall, evaporation and atmospheric temperature on fluctuations in the size of a natural population of Thrips imaginis (Thysanoptera). J Anim Ecol 17:200–222

  12. Draper NR, Smith H (1966) Applied Regression Analysis. John Wiley and Sons, New York

  13. Enequist P (1937) Das Bachneumauge als ökologische Modification des Flüsseneunauges Über die Fluss- und Bachneunaugen Schwedens. Ark Zool 29:1–22

  14. Harden Jones FR (1955) Photokinesis in the ammocoete larva of the brook lamprey. J Exp Biol 32:492–503

  15. Hardisty MW (1944) The life history and growth of the brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri). J Anim Ecol 13:110–122

  16. Hardisty MW, Huggins RJ (1970) Larval growth in the river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis. J Zool 161:549–559

  17. Lakhani KH, Davis BNK (1982) Multiple regression models of the distribution of Heleanthemum chamaecistis in relation to aspect and slope at Bornack, England. J Appl Ecol 17:621–629

  18. Lorenzen CJ (1967) Determination of chlorophyll and pheo-pigments: Spectrophotometric equations. Limnol Oceanogr 12:343–346

  19. McKay RJ, Campbell NA (1982) Variable selection techniques in discriminant analysis. I Description. Br J Math Stat Psychol 35:1–29

  20. Malmqvist B (1978) Population structure and biometry of Lampetra planeri (Bloch) from three different watersheds in South Sweden. Arch Hydrobiol 84:65–86

  21. Malmqvist B (1980) Habitat selection of larval brook lampreys (Lampetra planeri, Bloch) in a South Swedish stream. Oecologia (Berlin) 45:35–38

  22. Manion PJ (1967) Diatoms as food of larval sea lampreys in a small tributary of northern Lake Michigan. Trans Am Fish Soc 96:224–226

  23. Manion PJ, McLain AL (1971) Biology of larval sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) of the 1960 year class, isolated in the Big Garlic River, Michigan, 1960–65. Tech Rep Great Lakes Fish Comm 16:1–35

  24. Manion PJ, Smith BR (1978) Biology of larval and metamorphosing sea lampreys, Petromyzon marinus, of the 1960 year class in the Big Garlic River, Michigan, Part II 1966–1972. Tech Rep Great Lakes Fish Comm 30:1–35

  25. Maskell F (1929) On the New Zealand lamprey, Geotria australis Gray 1. Biology and life history. Trans Proc N.Z. Inst 60:167–210

  26. Moore JW, Beamish FWH (1973) Food of larval sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) and American brook lamprey (Lampetra lamottei) J Fish Res Board Can 30:7–15

  27. Moore JW, Potter IC (1976a) A laboratory study on the feeding of larvae of the brook lamprey Lampetra planeri (Bloch). J Anim Ecol 45:81–90

  28. Moore JW, Potter IC (1976b) Aspects of feeding and lipid deposition and utilization in the lampreys, Lampetra fluviatilis (L.) and Lampetra planeri (Bloch). J Anim Ecol 45:699–712

  29. Nelder JA, Wedderburn RHW (1972) Generalized Linear Models. J R Stat Soc A 135:370–384

  30. Potter IC (1970) The life cycles and ecology of Australian lampreys of the genus Mordacia. J Zool 161:487–511

  31. Potter IC (1980) Ecology of larval and metamorphosing lampreys. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 37:1641–1657

  32. Potter IC, Hilliard RW (1986) Growth and the average duration of larval life in the southern hemisphere lamprey, Geotria australis Gray. Experientia (in press)

  33. Potter IC, Rogers MJ (1972) Oxygen consumption in burrowed and unburrowed ammocoetes of Lampetra planeri (Bloch). Comp Biochem Physiol A 41:427–432

  34. Potter IC, Cannon D, Moore JW (1975) The ecology of algae in the Moruya River, Australia. Hydrobiologia 47:415–430

  35. Potter IC, Hilliard RW, Bird DJ (1980) Metamorphosis in the Southern Hemisphere lamprey, Geotria australis. J Zool 190:405–430

  36. Purvis H (1979) Variations in growth, age at transformation and sex ratio of sea lampreys reestablished in chemically treated tributaries of the upper Great Lakes. Tech Rep Great Lakes Fish Comm 35:1–36

  37. Reynolds WW, Casterlin ME (1979) Photokinetic responses and diel activity of sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus ammocoete larvae. J Fish Biol 14:425–428

  38. Rogers PA, Glenn AR, Potter IC (1980) The bacterial flora of the gut contents and environment of larval lampreys. Acta Zool (Stockholm) 61:23–27

  39. Sawyer HW (1959) Burrowing activities of the larval lampreys. Copeia 1959:256–257

  40. Schroll F (1959) Zur Ernährungsbiologie der steirischen Ammocöten Lampetra planeri (Bloch) und Eudontomyzon danfordi (Regan). Int Rev Gesamten Hydrobiol Hydrogr 44:395–429

  41. Schultze LP (1930) The life history of Lampetra planeri Bloch, with a statistical analysis of the rate of growth of the larvae from western Washington. Occas Pap Zool Mus Univ Michigan 221:1–35

  42. Siegel S (1956) Nonparametric statistics for the behavioural sciences. McGraw Hill Book Company, New York

  43. Standard Association of Australia (1977) Methods of testing soil for engineering purposes: Part C — Soil Classification Tests. Tech Sheets Standards Ass Aust AS.1289.C6.1–3

  44. Sterba G (1962) Die Neurnaugen (Petromyzonidae). In Handbuch der Binnenfisherei Mitteleuropas, Vol 3, Demoll R et al. (eds) E Schwizerbart Stuttgart, pp 263–352

  45. Thomas MLH (1962) Observations on the ecology of ammocoetes of Petromyzon marinus L and Entosphenus lamottei (Le Sueur). Unpubl M.Sc. thesis, University of Toronto, Canada

  46. Turnpenny AWH (1983) Multiple regression analysis for forecasting critical fish influxes at power station intakes. J Appl Ecol 20:133–142

  47. Young JZ (1935) The photoreceptors of lampreys. 1. Light sensitive fibres in the lateral line nerves. J Exp Biol 12:229–238

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to I. C. Potter.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Potter, I.C., Hilliard, R.W., Bradley, J.S. et al. The influence of environmental variables on the density of larval lampreys in different seasons. Oecologia 70, 433–440 (1986).

Download citation

Key words

  • Ammocoetes
  • Lamprey
  • Environmental variables
  • Density
  • Geotria