Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 12, pp 1557–1567 | Cite as

Sea lamprey orient toward a source of a synthesized pheromone using odor-conditioned rheotaxis

  • Nicholas S. Johnson
  • Azizah Muhammad
  • Henry Thompson
  • Jongeun ChoiEmail author
  • Weiming LiEmail author
Original Paper


Characterization of vertebrate chemo-orientation strategies over long distances is difficult because it is often not feasible to conduct highly controlled hypothesis-based experiments in natural environments. To overcome the challenge, we couple in-stream behavioral observations of female sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) orienting to plumes of a synthesized mating pheromone, 7α,12α,24-trihydroxy-5α-cholan-3-one-24-sulfate (3kPZS), and engineering algorithms to systematically test chemo-orientation hypotheses. In-stream field observations and simulated movements of female sea lampreys according to control algorithms support that odor-conditioned rheotaxis is a component of the mechanism used to track plumes of 3kPZS over hundreds of meters in flowing water. Simulated movements of female sea lampreys do not support that rheotaxis or klinotaxis alone is sufficient to enable the movement patterns displayed by females in locating 3kPZS sources in the experimental stream. Odor-conditioned rheotaxis may not only be effective at small spatial scales as previous described in crustaceans, but may also be effectively used by fishes over hundreds of meters. These results may prove useful for developing management strategies for the control of invasive species that exploit the odor-conditioned tracking behavior and for developing biologically inspired navigation strategies for robotic fish.


Olfaction Chemo-orientation Biological modeling Control algorithm Mate searching Agnathan 



We thank the staffs of U.S. Geological Survey Hammond Bay Biological Station, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marquette Biological Station and Department of Fisheries and Ocean, Sea Lamprey Control Centre for facilities, sea lamprey, and equipment. Terrance Hubert, Jane Rivera, and David Kennedy of U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Sciences Center helped obtain pheromone use permits from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dolly Trump and Lydia Lorenz provided access to their private lands to conduct field experiments. Thanks to Joseph Bednark, Cory Brant, Nicole Griewahn, Abby Johnson, Margo Nowak, David Partyka, Aaron Smuda, and Erin Walaszczyk for field assistance. Use of trademark names does not represent endorsement by the U.S. Government. This article is Contribution 1710 of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center. In-stream field experiments were supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. A. Muhammad and J. Choi were supported by the National Science Foundation through CAREER Award CMMI-0846547. W. Li was supported in part by the National Science Foundation Awards IOB0517491 and IOB0450916.

Ethical standards

Use of sea lamprey was approved under Michigan State University Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee permit 05/06-066-00. Experiments described in this manuscript comply with the current laws of the United States of America.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

265_2012_1409_MOESM1_ESM.docx (5.1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 5206 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.USGS, Great Lakes Science Center, Hammond Bay Biological StationMillersburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical EngineeringMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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