Two species of congeneric filter-feeding microphagous carps from Asia, the bighead and the silver carp, were recently introduced to North America and have become highly invasive. These species of carp have similar food habits but the silver carp has the unique habit of jumping when disturbed. Both species have complex but poorly understood social behaviors and while both are thought to aggregate (form groups) and shoal (form tight social groups), this possibility has not yet been examined in these species. The present study examined the grouping tendencies of these species in the laboratory and the effects of fish density and species identity on it. Using nearest neighbor distance (NND) as a metric, we showed that both juvenile bighead and juvenile silver carp grouped (aggregate) strongly (P<0.05) but to different extents, and that fish density had no effect (P>0.05) on this behavior. Within aggregations, bighead carp tended to form a single large shoal while silver carp formed shoals of 2-3 individuals. Further, when tested as mixed-species groups, bighead and silver carp readily shoaled with each other but not with the common carp, which is from Eurasia and a member of another feeding guild. Due to their similar feeding strategies, we speculate that the bighead and silver carp tend to aggregate and shoal to facilitate both their foraging efforts and to avoid predation, while the differences in the size of the shoals they form may seemingly reflect their different anti-predation strategies. These complex shoaling behaviors likely influence Asian carp distribution in rivers, and thus how they might be sampled and managed.
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© 2016 Ghosal et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.