Three-dimensional internal spatial structure of young-of-the-year pelagic freshwater fish provides evidence for the identification of fish school species

Jean Guillard, Paul Fernandes, Thomas LaloŽ, Patrice Brehmer

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 9:322-328 (2011) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2011.9.322

ABSTRACT: Active acoustic detection and characterization in three dimensions (3D) with multibeam sonars is a powerful technique for ecological studies of schooling fish. The alpine Lake Annecy provides ideal conditions for sampling fish with active acoustic methods: it has calm water, low species diversity, and the density of pelagic fish schools is high. We carried out investigations on the internal 3D morphological characteristics of young-of-theyear (Y-O-Y) pelagic fish schools, using high resolution multibeam sonar in the vertical plane. The objective was to discriminate between the two fish species that school in the lake: perch (Perca fluviatilis) and roach (Rutilus rutilus). To discriminate between these Y-O-Y fish species, we used only one characteristic of their internal spatial structure: the total number of vacuoles, defined as empty volumes inside the school, relative to the school volume. Two distinct linear relationships between school volume and the total number of vacuoles were determined. These two types were consistent with the proportions of the percentage occurrence of the two different species as obtained from pelagic trawl sampling in 2004. In 2008, perch was dominant (93%) in the lake, and only one relationship was detected: this relationship corresponded closely to the one in 2004 attributed to perch. Thus, we assume that the schooling behavior is a phenotypic expression that could be used for remote fish species identification.