Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New Mexico
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Peterson, D., R.B. Trantham, T.G. Trantham, and C.A. Caldwell. Tagging effects of passive integrated transponder and visual implant elastomer on the small-bodied White Sands pupfish (Cyprinodon tularosa). Journal of Fisheries Research (online publication completed 24 September 2017);


One of the greatest limiting factors of studies designed to obtain growth, movement, and survival in small-bodied fishes is the selection of a viable tag. The tag must be relatively small with respect to body size as to impart minimal sub-lethal effects on growth and mobility, as well as be retained throughout the life of the fish or duration of the study. Thus, body size of the model species becomes a major limiting factor; yet few studies have obtained empirical evidence of the minimum fish size and related tagging effects. The probability of surviving a tagging event was quantified in White Sands pupfish (Cyprinodon tularosa) across a range of sizes (19-60 mm) to address the hypothesis that body size predicts tagging survival. We compared tagging related mortality, individual taggers, growth, and tag retention in White Sands pupfish implanted with 8-mm passive integrated transponder (PIT), visual implant elastomer (VIE), and control (handled similarly, but no tag implantation) over a 75 d period. Initial body weight was a good predictor of the probability of survival in PIT- and VIE-tagged fish. As weight increased by 1 g, the fish were 4.73 times more likely to survive PIT tag implantation compared to the control fish with an estimated suitable tagging size at 1.1 g (TL: 39.29 ± 0.41 mm). Likewise, VIE-tagged animals were 2.27 times more likely to survive a tagging event compared to the control group for every additional 1 g with an estimated size suitable for tagging of 0.9 g (TL: 36.9 ± 0.36 mm). Growth rates of PIT- and VIE-tagged White Sands pupfish were similar to the control groups. This research validated two popular tagging methodologies in the White Sands pupfish, thus providing a valuable tool for characterizing vital rates in other small-bodied fishes.