Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 1, pp 67–77 | Cite as

The effect of size on juvenile green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) behavior near water-diversion fish screens

  • Jamilynn B. Poletto
  • Dennis E. Cocherell
  • Natalie Ho
  • Joseph J. CechJr
  • A. Peter Klimley
  • Nann A. FangueEmail author


Anthropogenic water management projects and facilities that alter the local and regional hydrology of riverine environments greatly influence the behavior, physiology, and survival of native fishes. To mitigate for losses of native fishes at these structures, many are outfitted with fish-exclusion screens to reduce entrainment. The effect of fish size and age on behavior near fish screens, however, is largely unknown. Therefore, we tested two size classes of juvenile green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris; small, early juveniles: 9.2 ± 0.2 cm fork length [FL], 6.9 ± 0.3 g; intermediate juveniles: 18.8 ± 0.2 cm FL, 36.9 ± 0.8 g) near fish-exclusion screens in a laboratory swimming flume. Although size was a significant factor influencing the way in which fish contacted the screens (i.e., proportion of body contacts, p = 2.5 × 10−9), it did not significantly influence the number of times fish contacted screens or the amount of time fish spent near screens. We also compared the performance of these two size classes to that of older and larger sturgeon that were tested previously (29.6 ± 0.2 cm FL, 147.1 ± 3.1 g), and documented a clear difference in the behavior of the fish that resulted in disparities in how the large fish contacted screens relative to small- or intermediate-sized juveniles (p = 0.005, 5.4 × 10−4, respectively). Our results further our understanding of how ontogeny affects fish behavior near anthropogenic devices, and are informative for managers seeking to identify the most susceptible size and age class of juvenile green sturgeon to water-diversion structures to potentially develop size-specific conservation strategies.


Ontogeny Threatened species Anthropogenic effects Conservation Rheotaxis Swimming performance 



We thank the numerous students and staff assistants of the Fangue Laboratory for assistance in fish rearing and maintenance, and in data acquisition and analysis. In particular, we thank Joel van Eenennaam for spawning the fish used in the study, and the Yurok Tribe for donating the broodstock green sturgeon from which the juveniles were spawned. Funding for the work was provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ecosystem Restoration Program (Grant #E0783004 to APK and NAF), the University of California Agricultural Experimental Station (Grant #2098-H to NAF), and a Delta Stewardship Council Grant (Grant #1470 to NAF and JBP). JBP was supported in part by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. We also would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions to improve this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jamilynn B. Poletto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dennis E. Cocherell
    • 1
  • Natalie Ho
    • 1
  • Joseph J. CechJr
    • 1
  • A. Peter Klimley
    • 1
  • Nann A. Fangue
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation BiologyUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

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