Lampreys, a group of jawless fishes, are modern representatives of the first known vertebrates. At least six species of lamprey (Entosphenus spp. and Lampetra spp.) occur in California watersheds. Native lamprey species are widely disregarded in California’s conservation domain despite evidence of dramatic population declines in recent decades, impeding science-based management efforts.
Though adult lamprey display a wide diversity of morphologies and life history strategies, larval lamprey of all species are similar in morphology and behavior. This similarity in larval and juvenile stages makes accurate species-specific identification challenging, and limits lamprey research in monitoring. California’s anadromous lamprey species, those that migrate up rivers to spawn, have a unique swimming strategy relative to other native anadromous fish. As a result, traditional passage structures at California’s dams and weirs may not allow lamprey migration over barriers. By measuring gene flow between populations above and below dams, it can be determined whether these anthropogenic barriers are affecting population connectivity.
To fill these emerging needs for knowledge and resources required to protect lamprey populations and their abundant contributions to California’s coastal ecosystems, the team will use genomic tools and content analysis to assess lamprey passage at key barriers, develop genetic markers to distinguish between species, identify genetically distinct lamprey units, and assess Californians’ perceptions of lamprey. This project will improve understanding of the vulnerabilities of California coastal lamprey species related to human-caused impacts, develop tools to facilitate science-based monitoring, and help build a framework for adaptive management of local lamprey populations. The assessment of community perceptions of lamprey will inform outreach strategies to garner support from stakeholders and the broader