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Limited movement of freshwater mussel fish hosts in a southern US river

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Abstract

Organisms that live in flowing water need to compensate for downstream displacement. Mobile animals can compensate for displacement by actively swimming or crawling upstream, while sedentary animals need other means to retain their position. Freshwater mussels (Bivalvia, Unionidae) have limited movement as adults, and juveniles drift downstream after excystment from their host. Mussel larvae are ectoparasites on fish, and it has been assumed that fish move larvae back upstream; however, this has not been tested experimentally. We hypothesized that fish served as dispersal agents, and that fish movement had an upstream bias to compensate for displacement of mussels by drift. We conducted a mark-and-recapture study of host fish in four 100-m reaches of the Little River, OK, USA, in the summer of 2011. Our study took place during a drought, and overall captures decreased with decreasing discharge, likely because fish moved out of their home ranges into deeper pools. Most recaptured fishes were centrarchids, and most recaptures occurred within 20 m of initial capture transects. While most moved <20 m, when fish did move to longer distances, they moved more upstream than downstream, allowing mussels to compensate for displacement.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the US Fish and Wildlife Service (F11AP00014), the US Forest Service (11-CS-11080900-004), and the National Geographic Society (9151-12) for financial support. We thank David Weaver and the staff of the USFWS Little River National Wildlife Reserve. Thanks go to Marie-Theres Martin from Universität Koblenz-Landau, Germany, for her help in the field, and all members of the Vaughn Stream Ecology Lab for their input. We thank Todd Fagin for GIS help, Ranell Madding and Trina Steil for administrative support, and committee members Drs. Julian, Kelly, Marsh-Matthews, and Schlupp for their assistance with the project design and comments on the manuscript. This paper was completed as part of a dissertation at the University of Oklahoma and is a contribution to the program of the Oklahoma Biological Survey.

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Irmscher, P., Vaughn, C.C. Limited movement of freshwater mussel fish hosts in a southern US river. Hydrobiologia 757, 223–233 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-015-2254-9

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