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Tracking the early stages of an invasion with biotelemetry: behaviour of round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) in Canada’s historic Rideau Canal


The round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), native to the Black and Caspian Seas, is one of the most wide-ranging invasive fishes, having established in much of Europe and North America. In 2019, round goby were discovered to have colonized a central portion of the Rideau Canal, a 202 km historic waterway in Ontario, Canada. Round goby were found in low densities and had not been previously reported in any adjacent sections of the waterway, implying a newly-established source population. Passage through locks is the most likely means by which round goby can naturally disperse throughout the system, so modifying lock operations and infrastructure to minimize passages could reduce their spread. Additionally, understanding the range expansion and habitat preferences of pioneering individuals can help inform control efforts. We combined acoustic telemetry with hydraulic data to (1) characterize sex- and size-specific movements, (2) identify entry and exit pathways through a lock, and (3) assess dispersal rates and probability. We tracked 45 adult round goby downstream of Edmonds Lockstation during the navigation season from July to October, during which nine were detected inside the lock, with one fish successfully passing upstream. Most fish remained near the release site, though 26% of tagged individuals dispersed. The farthest distance a fish moved was 500 m (downstream) after 27 days, generating a maximum dispersal rate of 18.5 m/day. Although we lacked sufficient statistical power to detect size- or sex-specific movements, males were more commonly detected further from the release site. Our results suggest possible modifications to lock operations and infrastructure that managers could consider to reduce round goby expansion upstream from the invasion site.

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The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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The code used in the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We sincerely thank the 2019 Parks Canada Lock Operators of Edmonds Lockstation, Dominic Peladeau and John Gauthier, for providing support in acoustic receiver deployment inside the lock chamber and for sharing critical information about daily lock operations. We thank Dr. Dirk Algera and Benjamin Hlina for support in statistical analysis. Thank you to Valeria Minelga and Dr. Chantal Vis for providing useful suggestions and comments on an early version of this manuscript that greatly improved it. Two undergraduate research assistants, Brenna Gagliardi and André Killeen, provided key field support and so we thank them for their efforts. We thank the heritage researcher and author Ken Watson for providing permissions to use his maps of the Rideau Canal as a template for Fig. 1. Finally, we sincerely appreciate the thoughtful input of two referees.


Funding for this work was supported by an NSERC Strategic Project Grant focused on the Rideau Canal Waterway. J.N.B. and K.L.N are each funded through Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postgraduate Scholarships. JRB is funded by the NSERC Discovery Program. Acoustic telemetry equipment was provided by the Realtime Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network (RAEON), funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation, and Science.

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Correspondence to Jordanna N. Bergman.

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Experimental protocols were approved by the Carleton University Animal Care Committee (AUP no. 110723) in compliance with the guidelines of the Canadian Council for Animal Care.

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Bergman, J.N., Raby, G.D., Neigel, K.L. et al. Tracking the early stages of an invasion with biotelemetry: behaviour of round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) in Canada’s historic Rideau Canal. Biol Invasions 24, 1149–1173 (2022).

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  • Biological invasion
  • Connectivity
  • Conservation
  • Range expansion
  • Round gobies
  • Non-indigenous