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2017 Conservation Research Grant Awardee

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#1 fundulus

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 09:28 AM

Hello All, the Conservation Research Grant review panel of myself, Derek Wheaton and Michael Wolfe have read and considered this year's seven proposals for the grant. The proposal from Madison Snider  at North Dakota State for $1000 is this year’s winner,  largely pasted in below. The status of desert spring species in the southwest is becoming more dire for a variety of reasons, and this is a relevant research project that our support can significantly help.

Madison Snider, M.S. student
Environmental & Conservation Sciences Graduate Program
North Dakota State University
Anti-Predator Behavior in Amargosa Pupfish and Pahrump Poolfish

The extinction of island species following the invasion of novel predators has often been attributed to evolutionary naïveté. This is especially true for fishes in western deserts, which evolved in simple communities that lack fish predators/competitors. These perceptions have led managers to avoid re-introducing endangered fishes to habitats currently occupied by non-native fishes. However, recent work has suggested non-native impacts on native fishes may be context specific. A recent study found that invasive mosquitofish did not affect the larval survival of Amargosa pupfish (Cyprinondon nevadensis amargosae), yet Pahrump poolfish (Empetrichthys latos latos) larvae did not survive in the presence of mosquitofish. These different responses of poolfish and pupfish to invasive mosquitofish were surprising because both species evolved in simple communities without fish predators. These results, however, suggest species-specific differences in anti-predator behaviors. One intriguing question is whether these fishes differ in the production and/or perception of predator alarm cues. For many, but not all fishes, alarm cues are released from the epidermis during predation events and the detection of such chemical alarm cues are reflected in behavioral responses. Often, fishes reduce activity following the introduction of damaged epidermal tissues of conspecifics.
I propose a test to experimentally evaluate if poolfish and pupfish display anti-predator responses to chemical cues of conspecifics. Specifically, I will test the following hypotheses:
H1: Pupfish and poolfish will differ in their responses to conspecific alarm cues.
HA1: Pahrump poolfish will not respond to chemical cues of conspecifics.
HA2: Amargosa pupfish will respond to chemical cues of conspecifics.

Description of work (methods, design, assumptions, constraints)
Amargosa pupfish will be collected from a wild population at River Springs near Mono Lake, California (California collecting permit to be approved) and Pahrump poolfish will be collected at Corn Creek Refuge (Federal permit to Craig Stockwell TE-126141-3). For each test, a single individual will be placed in a 37L aquarium for a 24h acclimation period prior to collecting behavioral data. A 5min predisturbance focal sample will be collected during which fish movement will be recorded as the number of moves across a 5cm X 5cm grid system stenciled on the front of the aquarium. I will then place either a conspecific chemical cue (treatment), or distilled water (control) into the water and then record fish movement during a 5min post-disturbance focal bout.
A 10cc volume of treatment substance (chemical cues or distilled water as a control) will be injected through a tube placed next to an aeration sponge to accomplish rapid distribution throughout the aquarium water column. For each trial, I will determine the relative change in movement. After each trial aquaria will be washed and refilled before starting a trial with a new fish. I will run 30 trials for both the control and the treatment and use t-tests to test for differences between the treatment and the control for each species. I will qualitatively compare and contrast the responses of each species to chemical alarm cues.

This work will determine if species-specific differences in anti-predator behavior may explain the differential responses of Pahrump poolfish and Amargosa pupfish to non-native fish predation. This work is of particular interest as a recent population decline of the largest Pahrump poolfish population followed the introduction of mosquitofish.

Bruce Stallsmith, Huntsville, Alabama, US of A

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