Olfactory-mediated stream-finding behavior of migratory adult sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)

Lance A. Vrieze, Roger A. Bergstedt, Peter W. Sorensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Stream-finding behavior of adult sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), an anadromous fish that relies on pheromones to locate spawning streams, was documented in the vicinity of an important spawning river in the Great Lakes. Untreated and anosmic migrating sea lampreys were implanted with acoustic transmitters and then released outside the Ocqueoc River. Lampreys swam only at night and then actively. When outside of the river plume, lampreys pursued relatively straight bearings parallel to the shoreline while making frequent vertical excursions. In contrast, when within the plume, lampreys made large turns and exhibited a weak bias towards the river mouth, which one-third of them entered. The behavior of anosmic lampreys resembled that of untreated lampreys outside of the plume, except they pursued a more northerly compass bearing. To locate streams, sea lampreys appear to employ a three-phase odor-mediated strategy that involves an initial search along shorelines while casting vertically, followed by river-water-induced turning that brings them close to the river's mouth, which they then enter using rheotaxis. This novel strategy differs from that of salmonids and appears to offer this poor swimmer adaptive flexibility and suggests ways that pheromonal odors might be used to manage this invasive species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-533
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011


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