Abstract

White sucker (Catostomus commersoni) are widely distributed in North America and are often used in environmental monitoring. Whole organism characteristics of three white sucker populations determined to be resident (outside of spawning) within small sections of the Saint John River, New Brunswick, were studied in 2001 and 2002. Significant differences in performance characteristics were present among sites. The differences can be interpreted as either improved sucker performance at Florenceville (upstream site), or decreased performance at Woodstock. Without further investigation it is difficult to identify whether the apparent improved performance is a response to nutrient enrichment, or increased mortality associated with the recent prevalence of lesions. Confounding factors are also present. Daily water level fluctuations resulting from an upstream dam discharge may change habitat availability and/or diversity, thereby altering the fish community. Liver sizes in Saint John River white sucker are considerably larger than in fish collected in Ontario, but are not relative to nearby New Brunswick river populations. This has implications for the importance of reference site selection and understanding the natural variability within a species (intra-specific variation) on multiple spatial scales.

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