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Behavioral Responses of Pacific Lamprey to Alarm Cues

Jun 13, 2017


Pacific Lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus), an anadromous ectoparasite, faces several challenges during adult migration to spawning grounds. Developing methods to address these challenges is critical to the success of ongoing conservation efforts. The challenges are diverse, and include anthropogenic alterations to the ecosystem resulting in loss of habitat, impassable barriers such as dams, climate change impacts, and altered predator fields. We conducted a behavioral study to understand how adult migrating Pacific Lamprey respond to potential alarm cues: White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), human saliva, decayed Pacific Lamprey, and river otter (Lontra canadensis). Research has shown that some species of lamprey can be guided to a location using odors and similar cues may be useful as a management tool for Pacific Lamprey. Experiments were conducted over 2 nights and measured the number of entries (count) and duration of time spent (occupancy) by adult lamprey in each arm of a two-choice maze. During the first night, no odor was added to test for selection bias between arms. During the second night odor was added to one arm of the maze. Contrary to expectations, lamprey were significantly attracted to the river otter odor in both count and occupancy. No significant differences were found in the response of lamprey to the other three odors. Results from this study indicate that Pacific Lamprey do respond to some odors; however, additional tests are necessary to better identify the types of odors and concentrations that elicit a repeatable response.


Laurie Porter, Michael Hayes, Aaron Jackson, Brian Burke, Mary Moser, and Steven Wagner


Porter, L.L., M.C. Hayes, A.D. Jackson, B.J. Burke, M.L. Moser, and R.S. Wagner. 2017. Behavioral responses of Pacific Lamprey to alarm cues. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 8(1):101-113. Online at



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Media Type

Journal Article