Main content area

Large-scale dispersal patterns and habitat use of plains topminnow Fundulus sciadicus: implications for species conservation

Schumann, David A., Koupal, Keith D., Wyatt Hoback, W., Schoenebeck, Casey W., Schainost, Steve
Journal of Freshwater Ecology 2015 v.30 no.2 pp. 311-322
Fundulus sciadicus, fish, game fish, habitats, home range, hydrology, life history, lotic systems, rivers, spawning, streams, Nebraska
Movement behaviors attributed to spawning, dispersal, or altered habitat availability are essential to the ecology of many lotic fishes and, although considerable research has described movements of sport fish, little is known about the movement patterns of nongame species. Streams and rivers, wherein plains topminnow Fundulus sciadicus are prevalent, occur in a nonequilibrium state in which habitat patches are sporadically created and lost due to hydrologic variability. This results in regular extirpation and need for recolonization of many plains fishes, including plains topminnow. Species persistence, therefore, is dependent on tolerances to fluctuating habitat conditions and life-history traits that allow dispersal over large areas. To better understand the regional distribution of plains topminnow, we monitored large-scale dispersal patterns and habitat use of two introduced populations in Nebraska. In 2011 and 2012, plains topminnow were marked using visible implanted elastomer (VIE) marks and released at the center of two 3000-m study reaches. Populations were sampled monthly from April to November in 2011 and April through September in 2012 to describe movement patterns and habitat use. Plains topminnow were highly mobile, consistently associated with select habitat features, and the estimated individual home range exceeded standard sampling reach distances by nearly four times. The movement of plains topminnow occurred at greater rates and to distances further than known for similar species. These large-scale movements likely help maintain connectivity among populations within stream drainages and facilitate recolonization of regularly extirpated habitat patches. In this context, species movement may be critical to the maintenance and potential recovery of populations of this and other rare lotic fishes.