Affordable Access

Alternative migration and host parasitism strategies and their long-term stability in river lampreys from the River Endrick, Scotland

Publication Date
  • Ge Environmental Sciences
  • Qh301 Biology


The stability of a discrete body size dimorphism of sexually mature river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis from the River Endrick, Scotland, was examined over a 21 year period. Stable isotope analysis was used to test the hypothesis that the two size forms comprise individuals with differing migration and parasitic foraging strategies. Maturing river lamprey and the brook lamprey Lampetra planeri were trapped over 3 months each year in the periods 1983–1984 and 2004–2005. Brook lamprey catches and catches of both species combined showed no significant trend in catch rate with time. The catch rate of small body size river lamprey declined between 1983–1984 and 2004–2005 (although the difference did not reach statistical significance; P = 0·055). In contrast, there was a significant increase in the catch rate of the large body size river lamprey and as a consequence, a significant change in the relative proportion of each of the two river lamprey morphs over the study period. Analysis of the stable isotopes of C and N in muscle tissue showed that brook lamprey tissue derived its carbon from a freshwater source and had a δ13C more consistent with that of the River Endrick than with Loch Lomond. δ15N values for this species showed it to be feeding at the base of the food chain, consistent with filter feeding as an ammocoete. The large body size and the small body size river lamprey adults differed substantially in their δ13C values, with the small body size δ13C signature indicative of a freshwater carbon source and the large body size morph of a marine source. The small body size morph had a δ13C signature that was consistent with that of Loch Lomond powan Coregonus lavaretus suggesting that they share a common carbon source. The large body size morph was clearly feeding at a higher trophic level than the small body size morph. A single small body size river lamprey individual with typical morphology for that group, however, had C and N signatures that clustered with those of the large body size morphs. This individual had either migrated to sea to forage, as is typical for the species, or had been feeding on an anadromous fish with a strong marine C signature in fresh water. It is concluded that the body size dimorphism is indicative of a differential migration and foraging strategy in the parasitic phase of the life cycle of river lamprey at this site.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.