Development of schooling behaviour during the downstream migration of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar smolts in a chalk stream

Authors

  • W. D. Riley,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, U.K.
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  • A. T. Ibbotson,

    1. Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Salmon and Trout Research Centre, The River Laboratory, East Stoke, Wareham, Dorset BH20 6BB, U.K.
    2. Queen Mary University of London, School of Biological Sciences, London, E1 4NS, U.K.
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  • D. L. Maxwell,

    1. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, U.K.
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  • P. I. Davison,

    1. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, U.K.
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  • W. R. C. Beaumont,

    1. Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Salmon and Trout Research Centre, The River Laboratory, East Stoke, Wareham, Dorset BH20 6BB, U.K.
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  • M. J. Ives

    1. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, U.K.
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  • This article is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Abstract

The downstream migratory behaviour of wild Atlantic salmon Salmo salar smolts was monitored using passive integrated transponder (PIT) antennae systems over 10 years in the lower reaches of a small chalk stream in southern England, U.K. The timing of smolt movements and the likely occurrence of schooling were investigated and compared to previous studies. In nine of the 10 consecutive years of study, the observed diel downstream patterns of S. salar smolt migration appeared to be synchronized with the onset of darkness. The distribution of time intervals between successive nocturnal detections of PIT-tagged smolts was as expected if generated randomly from observed hourly rates. There were, however, significantly more short intervals than expected for smolts detected migrating during the day. For each year from 2006 to 2011, the observed 10th percentile of the daytime intervals was <4 s, compared to ≥55 s for the simulated random times, indicating greater incidence of groups of smolts. Groups with the shortest time intervals between successive PIT tag detections originated from numerous parr tagging sites (used as a proxy for relatedness). The results suggest that the ecological drivers influencing daily smolt movements in the lower reaches of chalk stream catchments are similar to those previously reported at the onset of migration for smolts leaving their natal tributaries; that smolts detected migrating during the night are moving independently following initiation by a common environmental factor (presumably darkness), whereas those detected migrating during the day often move in groups, and that such schools may not be site (kin)-structured. The importance of understanding smolt migratory behaviour is considered with reference to stock monitoring programmes and enhancing downstream passage past barriers.

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