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Keywords:

  • behaviour;
  • energetics;
  • locomotion;
  • physiological telemetry;
  • swimming activity

Abstract

Electromyogram (EMG) telemetry studies that involve remotely monitoring the locomotory activity and energetics of fish are contributing important information to the conservation and management of fisheries resources. Here, we outline the development of this rapidly evolving field and formulate the studies conducted that utilize this technology. To date, more than 60 studies have been conducted using EMG telemetry that spans 18 species. Several general trends were observed in the methodology of the studies that we have highlighted as standards that should be adopted associated with transmitter customization, electrode placement and surgical technique. Although numerous studies have been methodological, there are still some deficiencies in our basic understanding of issues such as the need for individual calibration and the method of reporting or transforming data. Increasingly, this technology is being applied to address issues in conservation, management and aquaculture production. At present, the technology has been most frequently applied to the study of animal activity or energetics and to migration. Several recent studies have also focused on addressing more basic questions in ecological and evolutionary biology (e.g. parental care dynamics) similar to the large body of literature that has been collected for other taxa (e.g. marine mammals, birds), using activity telemetry. Collectively, studies conducted using EMG telemetry have contributed important information on free-swimming fish that was previously difficult to obtain. EMG telemetry is particularly effective for examining behaviour at temporal and spatial scales that are difficult using other techniques. The development of an ultrasonic transmitter based on the same proven principles as those used in the current radio transmitter technology will permit studies in other environments (i.e. marine, brackish, deep water) and on different species of fish. We encourage the continued development and refinement of devices for monitoring the activity and energetics of free-swimming fish, and also encourage researchers to consider EMG telemetry as a tool for addressing questions that are not effectively answered with other techniques.