Rudolfsen, T.*, Ruppert, J.W.R.*, Davis, C., Taylor, R., Watkinson, D. and M.S. Poesch (2019) Habitat use and hybridization between the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) and Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus). Freshwater Biology 64(3): 391-404.

Citation: Rudolfsen, T.*, Ruppert, J.W.R.*, Davis, C., Taylor, R., Watkinson, D. and M.S. Poesch (2019) Habitat use and hybridization between the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) and Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus). Freshwater Biology 64(3): 391-404.

Abstract

Anthropogenic factors such as land-use change, pollution and climate change, can cause fragmentation and reduce the amount of habitat by altering preferred conditions. This process can also bring about novel species interactions and, in some cases, create or alter levels of hybridization between closely related species. We assessed the threat of hybridization to persistence of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) and the Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) in the Flathead River drainage, British Columbia, Canada. Using 731 genetic samples, 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci and mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase sequences, we assessed: (1) if there are differences in the distribution of Rocky Mountain Sculpin between contemporary and historical (35 years ago) records, (2) if hybridization is symmetrical in terms of sex specific parental contributions, and (3) if habitat preferences contribute to the distribution of pure parental and hybrid populations. We identified three hybrid locations and found that Rocky Mountain Sculpin have a distribution (1200 – 1902 m) that far exceeds the range limit reported 35 years ago (1200 – 1372 m). Additionally, hybrid mating appears to involve similar proportions of parents of both sexes from each species. Lastly, elevation, water conductivity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen are significant factors predicting the presence of parental species. Only elevation was significant to hybrid presence. The contrasting associations of parental species with different habitat types appears to influence the extent and distribution of hybridization.

*Lab members:   Tyana Rudolfsen,  Jonathan Ruppert, Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Rudolfsen, T.*, Watkinson, D. and Poesch, M.S. (2018) Morphological divergence of the Threatened Rocky Mountain sculpin (Cottus sp.) is driven by biogeography and flow regime. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 28: 78-86.

Citation: Rudolfsen, T.*, Watkinson, D. and Poesch, M.S. (2018) Morphological divergence of the Threatened Rocky Mountain sculpin (Cottus sp.) is driven by biogeography and flow regime. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 28: 78-86.

Abstract

Stream hydrology is considered the primary factor in structuring freshwater fish communities,influencing stream habitats, food resources, and life‐history characteristics. Changes in stream hydrology, from climate change and anthropogenic sources (e.g. dams, irrigation channels), are thought to have adverse impacts on many freshwater species. The Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) is a threatened species in Canada. Phenotypes of Rocky Mountain Sculpin were compared across a gradient of four streams differing in stream hydrology. It was hypothesized that Rocky Mountain Sculpin would show body forms minimizing drag in higher flow environments. Using geometric morphometrics and meristic counts, body shape, fin rays, and sensory pores were compared. As hypothesized, high‐flow river systems were correlated with sculpin with more dorso‐ventrally compressed, slender body shapes that minimized resistance to flow (P<0.001). Rocky Mountain Sculpin had more pectoral fin rays in populations with higher flows than lower flows,potentially allowing them to increase friction when gripping onto the substrate (P<0.001), and more anteriorly and dorsally located head pores to improve detection of floating prey (P<0.001). Biogeographic isolation and difference in flow regime were the likely basis for the observed morphological variation. The degree to which these phenotypes become fixed is unknown;however, since phenotypic diversity parallels genetic diversity in Rocky Mountain Sculpin,there is the possibility that persistent selection of these phenotypes can make it difficult to adapt to rapidly changing habitat conditions, such as changing flow. This study emphasizes the importance of considering phenotypic and morphological variation when evaluating how best to mitigate anthropogenic stressors and their impact on freshwater fishes.

* Lab members: Tyana RudolfsenMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Flow Regime across the range of Rocky Mountain Sculpin

Morphological Differences Across Populations (Dorsal view) of Rocky Mountain Sculpin

Veillard, M.F.*, Ruppert, J.L.W.*, Tierney, K., Watkinson, D., and M.S. Poesch. (2017) Comparative swimming and station-holding ability of the threatened Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) from four hydrologically distinct rivers. Conservation Physiology 5: 1-12.

Citation: Veillard, M.F.*, Ruppert, J.L.W.*, Tierney, K., Watkinson, D., and Poesch, M.S. 2017. Comparative swimming and station-holding ability of the threatened Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) from four hydrologically distinct rivers. Conservation Physiology 5: 1-12.

Abstract

Hydrologic alterations, such as dams, culverts or diversions, can introduce new selection pressures on freshwater fishes, where they are required to adapt to novel environmental conditions. Our study investigated how species adapt to natural and altered stream flow, where we use the threatened Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) as a model organism. We compared the swimming and station-holding performance of Rocky Mountain Sculpin from four different hydrologic regimes in Alberta and British Columbia, including the North Milk River, a system that experiences increased flows from a large-scale diversion. We measured the slip (Uslip) and failure (Uburst) velocities over three constant acceleration test trials. Uslipwas defined as the point at which individuals required the addition of bursting or swimming to maintain position. Uburst was defined as the point at which individuals were unable to hold position in the swimming chamber through swimming, bursting or holding techniques without fully or partially resting on the electrified back plate. We found individuals from the Flathead River in British Columbia (with the highest natural flow) failed at significantly higher Uburstvelocities than fish from the southern Albertan populations. However, there was no relationship between peak hydrologic flow from the natal river and Uburst or Uslip. Further, Uburst velocities decreased from 51.8 cm s−1 (7.2 BL s−1) to 45.6 cm s−1 (6.3 BL s−1) by the third consecutive test suggesting the use of anaerobic metabolism. Uslip was not different between trials suggesting the use of aerobic metabolism in station-holding behaviours (Uslip). Moreover, we found no significant differences in individuals from the altered North Milk River system. Finally, individual caudal morphological characteristics were related to both slip and failure velocities. Our study contributes to the conservation of Rocky Mountain Sculpin by providing the first documentation of swimming and station-holding abilities of this benthic fish.

*Lab members: Marie VeillardJonathan RuppertMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Difference in Swim Performance Across Populations of Rocky Mountain Sculpin. Shown are Tukey contrasts (estimate +/- 95% confidence intervals) between rivers (top row) and constant acceleration trial (CAT) numbers (bottom row) for failure (Uburst) and slip (Uslip) velocities from linear effects model. Significant differences are noted in yellow; Rivers are abbreviated as: Flathead River (FH), St. Mary River (SM), Lee Creek (LC) and North Milk River (NM).

Ruppert, J.L.W.*, James, P.M.A., Taylor, R., Rudolfsen, T.*, Veillard, M.*, Davis, C., Watkinson, D. and Poesch, M.S. (2017) Riverscape genetic structure of a threatened and dispersal limited freshwater species, the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.). Conservation Genetics 18: 925-937.

Citation: Ruppert, J.L.W.*, James, P.M.A., Taylor, R., Rudolfsen, T.*, Veillard, M.*, Davis, C., Watkinson, D. and Poesch, M.S. 2017. Riverscape genetic structure of a threatened and dispersal limited freshwater species, the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.). Conservation Genetics 18: 925-937.

Abstract

Understanding the movement ability and the spatial scale(s) of population genetic structure of species can together better ‘tune’ management objectives to prevent potential range contraction and population declines. We studied the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.), a threatened species in Canada, to demonstrate the utility of using two complementary approaches to assess connectivity of a species. To do so, we used Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags with a stationary tracking array (n = 223) to track movement and genetic data (n = 1,015) from nine microsatellite loci to assess genetic population structure. The PIT tag results indicated that Rocky Mountain Sculpin are sedentary; approximately 50% of individuals only moved a maximum distance of 10 meters (upstream or downstream) over a 5-month period. Genetic analyses indicated that at the spatial scale of our study area (5500 km2), watershed structure (river basins) is the main geographic feature influencing population genetic structure. We used the Bayesian clustering tool STRUCTURE, which suggested four distinct sub-populations of Rocky Mountain Sculpin in Canada. Genetic structure at finer spatial scales (within basins and sub-basins) appears to be influenced by fluvial distance (i.e., geographic distance along a river) and elevation change between sample locations (i.e., isolation-by-distance and isolation-by-environment). Combining movement and genetic analyses provides complimentary evidence of limited dispersal in Rocky Mountain Sculpin and highlights that both approaches together can provide broader insight into connectivity between populations that may ultimately help to aid future management decisions.

*Lab members: Jonathan RuppertTyana RudolfsenMarie VeillardMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

STRUCTURE results showing mean assignment of individuals into four clusters and sorted by geographic locatoins. Geographic locations are abbreviated as FH: Flathead River, LC: Lee Creek, STM: St Mary River and NM: North Milk River.