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

Fitzpatrick, R.M., D.L. Winkelman, and B.M. Johnson. Using isotopic data to evaluate Esox lucius (Linnaeus, 1758) natal origins in a hydrologically complex river basin. 2021. Fishes 2021, 6, 67.


Otolith microchemistry has emerged as a powerful technique with which to identifythe natal origins of fishes, but it relies on differences in underlying geology that may occur over large spatial scales. An examination of how small a spatial scale on which this technique can be implemented, especially in water bodies that share a large proportion of their flow, would be useful for guiding aquatic invasive species control efforts. We examined trace isotopic signatures in northern pike (Esox lucius) otoliths to estimate their provenance between two reservoirs in the Upper Yampa River Basin, Colorado, USA. This is a challenging study area as these reservoirs are only 11-rkm apart on the same river and thus share a high proportion of their inflow. We found that three isotopes (86Sr, 137Ba, and 55Mn) were useful in discriminating between these reservoirs, but their signatures varied annually, and the values overlapped. Strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) were different between sites and relatively stable across three years, which made them an ideal marker for determining northern pike provenance. Our study demonstrates the usefulness of otolith microchemistry for natal origin determination within the same river over a relatively small spatial scale when there are geologic differences between sites, especially geologic differences underlying tributaries between sites.