The estuarine biology of the River lamprey, Lampetra fluviatilis, in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, with particular reference to size composition and feeding

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Abstract

Samples collected regularly during 1979, 1980 and 1981 from the intake screens of power stations in the estuary of the River Forth produced data on the estuarine phase in the life cycle of the River lamprey, Lampetra fluviatilis. Recently metamorphosed animals were common during the spring while sexually maturing adults were abundant in the late summer and autumn. These were assumed to be lampreys at the end of their downstream and start of their upstream migrations respectively. The respective sizes of the presumed downstream and upstream migrants were 69–135 mm (0-2-2-8 g) and 200–361 mm (7-0-93-2 g). Smaller numbers of animals of intermediate size were collected during the summer and late autumn. Males were usually the predominant sex with an average of 56–5% of the population in 1980–1981. In all months, the mean weight and with one exception also the mean length, was greater for females than for males. The intestine frequently contained fish remains, especially muscle, bone and scales of clupeids and thus the River lamprey seems to feed mainly on teleosts in this estuary. An analysis of the size of scales in the intestines of lampreys of various body lengths indicates that there is a relationship between the size of host and predator. Comparisons with other studies of Lampetra fluviatilis emphasize the variability that exists in aspects of the biology of this species within and among populations.

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