, Volume 635, Issue 1, pp 237–249 | Cite as

What is “fallback”?: metrics needed to assess telemetry tag effects on anadromous fish behavior

  • Holly J. Frank
  • Martha E. Mather
  • Joseph M. Smith
  • Robert M. Muth
  • John T. Finn
  • Stephen D. McCormick
Primary research paper


Telemetry has allowed researchers to document the upstream migrations of anadromous fish in freshwater. In many anadromous alosine telemetry studies, researchers use downstream movements (“fallback”) as a behavioral field bioassay for adverse tag effects. However, these downstream movements have not been uniformly reported or interpreted. We quantified movement trajectories of radio-tagged anadromous alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) in the Ipswich River, Massachusetts (USA) and tested blood chemistry of tagged and untagged fish held 24 h. A diverse repertoire of movements was observed, which could be quantified using (a) direction of initial movements, (b) timing, and (c) characteristics of bouts of coupled upstream and downstream movements (e.g., direction, distance, duration, and speed). Because downstream movements of individual fish were almost always made in combination with upstream movements, these should be examined together. Several of the movement patterns described here could fall under the traditional definition of “fallback” but were not necessarily aberrant. Because superficially similar movements could have quite different interpretations, post-tagging trajectories need more precise definitions. The set of metrics we propose here will help quantify tag effects in the field, and provide the basis for a conceptual framework that helps define the complicated behaviors seen in telemetry studies on alewives and other fish in the field.


Alosine Tag effect Movement Behavior 



This project was administered through the Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is a collaboration of the University of Massachusetts, the U. S. Geological Survey, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Wildlife Management Institute. We thank the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Ebsco Publishing, New England BioLabs, Ipswich Bay Fly Fishing Derby, numerous alewife adopters, Northeast Utilities, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their respective supports. A. Silberzweig, S. Turner, and M. Burak provided field assistance. We thank Amy Regish for analyzing plasma samples. Comments from Joe Hightower, Ken Sprankle, and two anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holly J. Frank
    • 1
    • 3
  • Martha E. Mather
    • 2
    • 3
  • Joseph M. Smith
    • 1
    • 3
  • Robert M. Muth
    • 3
  • John T. Finn
    • 3
  • Stephen D. McCormick
    • 4
  1. 1.Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.U. S. Geological Survey, Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural Resources ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  4. 4.Conte Anadromous Fish Research CenterU. S. Geological SurveyTurners FallsUSA

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