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); https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fisheries.2017.08.019.
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.