Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 103–116 | Cite as

Behavior and potential threats to survival of migrating lamprey ammocoetes and macrophthalmia

  • Mary L. Moser
  • Aaron D. Jackson
  • Martyn C. Lucas
  • Robert P. Mueller


Upon metamorphosis, anadromous juvenile lamprey (macrophthalmia) exhibit distinct migration behaviors that take them from larval rearing habitats in streams to the open ocean. While poorly studied, lamprey larvae (ammocoetes) also engage in downstream movement to some degree. Like migrating salmon smolts, lamprey macrophthalmia undergo behavioral changes associated with a highly synchronized metamorphosis. Unlike salmon smolts, the timing of juvenile migration in lamprey is protracted and poorly documented. Lamprey macrophthalmia and ammocoetes are not strong swimmers, attaining maximum individual speeds of less than 1 m s−1, and sustained speeds of less than 0.5 m s−1. They are chiefly nocturnal and distribute throughout the water column, but appear to concentrate near the bottom in the thalweg of deep rivers. At dams and irrigation diversions, macrophthalmia can become impinged on screens or entrained in irrigation canals, suffer increased predation, and experience physical injury that may result in direct or delayed mortality. The very structures designed to protect migrating juvenile salmonids can be harmful to juvenile lamprey. Yet at turbine intakes and spillways, lampreys, which have no swim bladder, can withstand changes in pressure and shear stress large enough to injure or kill most teleosts. Lamprey populations are in decline in many parts of the world, with some species designated as species of concern for conservation that merit legally mandated protections. Hence, provisions for safe passage of juvenile lamprey are being considered at dams and water diversions in North America and Europe.


Petromyzontiformes Transformers Passage Metamorphosis Macrophthalmia Ammocoetes 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary L. Moser
    • 1
  • Aaron D. Jackson
    • 2
  • Martyn C. Lucas
    • 3
  • Robert P. Mueller
    • 4
  1. 1.Northwest Fisheries Science CenterNOAA FisheriesSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural ResourcesConfederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian ReservationPendletonUSA
  3. 3.School of Biological and Biomedical SciencesDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  4. 4.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA

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