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

Reeves, K. S., and D. L. Galat. Do larval fishes exhibit diel drift patterns in a large, turbid river?


Previous research suggested larval fishes do not exhibit a diel drift cycle in turbid rivers (transparency <30 cm). We evaluated this hypothesis in the turbid, lower Missouri River, Missouri. We also reviewed diel patterns of larval drift over a range of transparencies in rivers worldwide. Larval fishes were collected from the Missouri River primary channel every 4 hper 24-h period during spring-summer 2002. Water transparency was measured during this period and summarized for previous years. Diel drift patterns were analyzed at the assemblage level and lower taxonomic levels for abundant groups. Day and night larval fish catch-perunit- effort (CPUE) was compared for the entire May through August sampling period and spring (May – June) and summer (July – August) seasons separately. There were no significant differences between day and night CPUE at the assemblage level for the entire sampling period or for the spring and summer seasons. However, Hiodon alosoides, Carpiodes ⁄ Ictiobus spp. and Macrhybopsis spp. exhibited a diel cycle of abundance within the drift. This pattern was evident although mean Secchi depth (transparency) ranged from 4 to 25 cm during the study and was <30 cm from May through August over the previous nine years. Larval diel drift studies from 48 rivers excluding the Missouri River indicated the primary drift period for larval fishes was at night in 38 rivers and during the day for five, with the remaining rivers showing no pattern. Water transparency was reported for 10 rivers with six being <30 cm or low. Two of these six turbid rivers exhibited significant diel drift patterns. The effect of water transparency on diel drift of larval fishes appears taxa-specific and patterns of abundant taxa could mask patterns of rare taxa when analyzed only at the assemblage level.