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River Lamprey (Lampetra ayresii) outmigrant upstream of the John Day Dam in the mid-Columbia River.

Key words: anadromous, Columbia River, genetics, Lampetra ayresii, migration, River Lamprey

The anadromous River Lamprey (Lampetra ayresii) is known to occur in North America from Alaska to central California, generally in association with larger estuarine systems (such as the Fraser River in British Columbia, the Sacramento River in California, and the Columbia River in Washington-Oregon; Vladykov and Follett 1958; Weitkamp and others 2015). Its occurrence in the Columbia River basin, however, has not been well documented. Although small numbers of juvenile (feeding phase) River Lamprey have been captured incidentally in the Columbia River Estuary (Bond and others 1983; Weitkamp and others 2012, 2015), there are few records of this species in freshwater (Kostow 2002). The farthest upriver report in the Columbia River basin is a March 1940 record at Bonneville (presumably at Bonneville Dam), 235 river kilometers (rkm) from the Pacific Ocean (Vladykov and Follett 1958). However, adult River Lamprey (117- to 324-mm total length; Vladykov and Follett 1958; Bond and others 1983; Wydoski and Whitney 2003; Weitkamp and others 2015) are less noticeable than the larger Pacific Lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus) (700- to 800-mm total length; Clemens and others 2010) and might spawn in deep water in large river systems similar to other lamprey species (Dawson and others 2015). Thus, even when abundant, they are rarely observed in freshwater (Beamish 1980; Beamish and Youson 1987). Furthermore, during its prolonged freshwater larval stage, it is difficult or impossible to distinguish River Lamprey, either morphologically or genetically, from the closely related and widely distributed Western Brook Lamprey (Lampetra richardsoni) (Docker 2009). The nonmigratory, non-trophic adult Western Brook Lamprey (90- to 180-mm total length) can be distinguished from adult River Lamprey by morphological and dentition characters (Wydoski and Whitney 2003; Docker 2009).

There is a growing conservation concern for lampreys worldwide. Like other species, the River Lamprey is susceptible to various freshwater threats such as dredging and barriers to migration (Maitland and others 2015). The Columbia River Basin is currently fragmented by many mainstem hydropower, navigation, and flood-control dams, as well as numerous additional dams and irrigation diversions in tributary systems. Many of these dams do not provide fish passage and those that do are likely problematic for migratory adult lampreys (Moser and others 2015). Documentation of River Lamprey in the Columbia River basin would help inform management of this highly regulated system, as well as elucidate distribution patterns to aid conservation. A current effort is underway to increase the monitoring of out-migrating juvenile lampreys through the operation of salmonid smolt monitoring systems at mainstem Columbia River dams (Fish Passage Center 2014). Subsamples of juvenile (metamorphosed to outmigrating phase) and larval (unmetamorphosed) lampreys are collected, anesthetized, identified (to species for juvenile lampreys and to genus for larval lampreys), measured, and assessed for body condition.

A putative juvenile (recently metamorphosed) River Lamprey was collected at the John Day Dam smolt bypass facility on 28 May 2013 from a sample time frame of 13:00 to 07:00. The fish was 144-mm total length and weighed 3.1 g. Its dentition pattern clearly distinguished it from the relatively more common Pacific Lamprey (Fig. 1). Pacific Lamprey have 3 large cusps on the supra-oral lamina, 4 pairs of lateral teeth, and 1 row of posterior teeth; whereas the River Lamprey has 2 cusps on the supra-oral lamina, 3 pairs of lateral teeth, and no posterior teeth (Wydoski and Whitney 2003). Its caudal pigmentation was likewise consistent with Lampetra spp. (Fig. 2, Fig. 3); lampreys in the Entosphenus genus possess a lighter caudal ridge, whereas the caudal ridge of Lampetra spp. is uniformly dark (Goodman and others 2009). This specimen was distinguished from the co-occurring juvenile Western Brook Lamprey by its sharper and more prominent teeth, silvery coloration, and larger eye (Fig. 1, Fig. 3; Docker 2009: Figure 1). An approximate 2X2 mm sample of tissue was removed from the caudal fin and stored in a vial containing 100% ethanol for genetic analysis, after which the lamprey in the trap was released back to the river.


Genetic analysis was performed using both the HadU restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) assay described by Goodman and others (2009) and the Etr-1 microsatellite locus described by Spice and others (2011). The HaeIII assay recognizes Entosphenus- and Lampetra specific differences in the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, and the Etr-1 locus is approximately 225-230 base pairs (bp) in Entosphenus and 260 bp in Lampetra. Both assays confirmed this specimen as Lampetra spp.


John Day Dam is the 3rd upriver mainstem dam (following Bonneville and The Dalles dams) on the Columbia River; at 348 rkm, this is the farthest upriver documentation of a River Lamprey in the Columbia River basin. This single report to date above the John Day Dam (despite the fact that 4053 to 24,519 juvenile lamprey have been examined each year at its smolt bypass facilities since the inception of the monitoring program in 2011; Fish Passage Center 2015) suggests a very small upstream population. Although Vladykov and Follett (1958) reported an upstream migrant at Bonneville (presumably Bonneville Dam; rkm 235 mm) in the Columbia River and migration distances in the Sacramento River basin in excess of 300 km, River Lamprey are generally thought to be associated with near-coastal areas (Beamish 1980; Beamish and Youson 1987), especially in areas like Puget Sound, Washington (Hayes and others 2013). Given their smaller body size and, presumably, poorer climbing abilities compared to Pacific Lamprey (see Clemens and others 2010), River Lamprey are likely particularly susceptible to barriers to migration. Given the real or perceived rarity of this species upstream of dams, most outmigrating lampreys are likely assumed to be Pacific Lamprey without close examination of dentition and caudal fin pigmentation, which is not standard practice. Recently, a wider effort to monitor larval and juvenile fishes in the Columbia River basin was initiated (Moser and others 2015). Further monitoring during outmigration and upstream migration would be beneficial, as would attempts to determine if pigmentation differences reported between River Lamprey and Western Brook Lamprey larvae in British Columbia (Richards and others 1982) can be applied to these species elsewhere.


It is also worth considering whether this outmigrating lamprey was potentially produced from non-migratory Western Brook Lamprey upstream of the John Day Dam, rather than from adult migrating River Lamprey that would have had to successfully pass Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day dams to produce this juvenile. A population of Western Brook Lamprey in Morrison Creek on Vancouver Island is known to produce some individuals that, at metamorphosis, have the well-developed teeth and silvery coloration typical of downstream migratory River Lamprey; these individuals are capable of feeding in the laboratory and delay spawning by 1 y (Beamish 1987). There is growing evidence that at least some lamprey species can produce both migratory parasitic and non-migratory non-parasitic life-history types, and there is ongoing debate about whether these so-called "paired species" represent 2 ecotypes of a single species (see review by Docker 2009).

The increased monitoring efforts for lampreys at the Columbia River mainstem dams as well as off-river sites where salmonid smolt traps are in operation will greatly increase our knowledge of the distribution, demographics, and migration timing of these ecologically and culturally important lampreys. The heightened awareness of the conservation issues surrounding all lamprey species of the Pacific Northwest has led to an increase in lamprey survey work in many areas. Directed training for proper identification of all species and life stages is necessary, and increased communication among researchers regarding observations of River Lamprey in the Columbia River basin will also assist in understanding the distribution of this rare fish.

Acknowledgments.--The findings and conclusions in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


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US Fish and Wildlife Service, Columbia River Fisheries Program Office, 1211 SE Cardinal Court, Suite 100, Vancouver, WA 98683 USA (JCJ),; Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2325 River Road, Suite 4, The Dalles, OR 97058 USA (GK),; Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada (MFD), Submitted 9 May 2015, accepted 24 August 2015. Corresponding Editor: Robert Hoffman.
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Title Annotation:GENERAL NOTES
Author:Jolley, Jeffrey C.; Kovalchuk, Gregory; Docker, Margaret F.
Publication:Northwestern Naturalist: A Journal of Vertebrate Biology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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