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Title: Migration, homing and spatial ecology of common carp in interconnected lakes

The common carp,Cyprinus carpio, is a large, long‐lived, fecund and mobile cyprinid, which evolved in complex inter‐braided Ponto‐Caspian rivers that experience both springtime flooding and freezing winters. Studies suggest adults often move to productive, shallow lakes and floodplains to spawn because they often lack egg predators and then return to deeper normoxic waters to overwinter. Whether these movements involve individuals consistently selecting, or homing to, the same spawning and refuge lakes as part of a strategy benefiting their reproductive success is unknown. To address this question, we examined the movements of 67 radio‐tagged adult carp for 3 years in a watershed with 11 interconnected lakes. Carp were tagged and released into a centrally located, normoxic deep lake in spring and fall. Each spring over 95% of its adults left via a single stream and swam into one of 5 shallow lakes, with most individuals (84%) selecting the same lake(s) in which to spawn each year (median Bhattacharyya affinity coefficient of similarity of 0.82). Young were later found in those lakes without egg predators, which cannot survive winter anoxia. After spawning, carp spent summers moving between productive lakes in an individualistic fashion, presumably foraging, with most (89%) eventually returning to the same deep lake to overwinter (median Bhattacharyya affinity of 1.0). These movements appear to reveal a life‐history tactic involving seasonal homing migration, first to a spawning location and later to winter refuges, that is well adapted to productive but highly heterogeneous and interconnected freshwater environments.

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Journal Name:
Ecology of Freshwater Fish
Medium: X Size: p. 164-176
["p. 164-176"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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