Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 151–167 | Cite as

Relating the swimming movements of green sturgeon to the movement of water currents

  • John T. KellyEmail author
  • A. Peter Klimley


Animals swimming in tidal environments continuously interact with water currents which may either hinder or aid their movement. It is difficult to observe the orientation of an organism relative to the current when it is swimming in the wild without specialized telemetry; however, using the total recorded movement vector and the current vector, one can use vector analysis to calculate the actual movement of the animal. Here, we apply this method to six tracks of green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) in the San Francisco Estuary, using current vectors derived from a hydrodynamic model. Three movements were near the surface in deeper, high-current regions of the bay and three were near the bottom in shallow, low-current areas. The total displacement over ground was faster at the surface (0.9 m sec−1 versus 0.5 m sec−1) and occurred in stronger currents (0.7 m sec−1 versus 0.4 m sec−1), but the swimming speeds of the fish were similar between surface and bottom movements (0.5 m sec−1 versus 0.6 m sec−1). All surface movements were in the direction of the current, and two of the fish also oriented closely to the flow. In contrast, none of the three benthic movements were in the direction of the current, and two were oriented opposite to the flow. It seems plausible that green sturgeon orient to and make use of water currents to efficiently move through tidal habitats, riding the flow in high-current areas, and moving independently of, or even into, the flow in slower currents.


Rheotaxis Orientation Selective tidal stream transport Vector analysis 



This research was funded by grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Anadromous Fish Restoration Program and CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program. GIS bathymetry data were provided by W. Patterson, California Department of Fish and Game, Information Technology Division, Sacramento, California. We are indebted to our colleague C. Crocker who devoted extensive time, effort, and boat support during the field phase of this study. P. Sandstrom collected the field measurements of currents. Capture of sturgeon would not have been possible without the efforts of N. Kogut, R. Schaffter, D. Kohlhorst, M. Silva, and the field staff of the CDFG Bay/Delta Branch. Thanks also to J. Cech Jr., R. Kihslinger, S. Lankford, V. Wunderlich and all those that volunteered their time and efforts. This manuscript benefited from reviews by M. Gard, J. Cech Jr., G. Nevitt, R. Kihslinger, L. Rabin.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Environmental ScienceUniversity of New HavenWest HavenUSA

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