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Finding paradise: cues directing the migration of the waterfall climbing Hawaiian gobioid Sicyopterus stimpsoni


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A series of waterfall-climbing trials were conducted to identify cues that direct the climbing of juvenile Sicyopterus stimpsoni. In the first experiment, whether climbing juveniles preferentially ascend water sources with conspecifics or whether the presence of just stream water is sufficient to attract fish to ascend a climbing path were assessed. In the second experiment, whether climbing juveniles create a trail of mucus that facilitates the ability of conspecifics to follow their lead was determined. The results indicate that juvenile S. stimpsoni are less likely to climb in waters devoid of organic cues but are strongly attracted to stream water with or without the odour of conspecifics. Once climbing, performance did not differ for juveniles climbing in differing water choices, suggesting an all-or-nothing commitment once climbing commences. Climbing S. stimpsoni did produce a mucous trail while climbing that was associated with a mucous gland that dramatically increases in size just prior to juveniles gaining the ability to climb. The trail was not followed closely by subsequent juveniles traversing the same channel, however, suggesting only weak trail-following in waterfall climbing S. stimpsoni. Previous genetic studies suggest that juvenile S. stimpsoni do not home to natal streams in the face of strong near-shore oceanic currents. Instead, these fish appear primarily to rely on cues that suggest the presence of organic growth in streams, a factor that may indicate suitable habitat in an ever-changing stream environment but which may also be vulnerable to interference through human activity.