Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit



Mark A Kaemingk

Date of this Version



Oecologia (2019) 190:579–588

doi 10.1007/s00442-019-04440-x


U.S. government work.


Many freshwater organisms have a life-history stage that can disperse through seawater. This has obvious benefits for colonization and connectivity of fragmented sub-populations, but requires a physiologically challenging migration across a salinity boundary. We consider the role of landscape boundaries between freshwater and seawater habitats, and evaluate their potential effects on traits and developmental histories of larvae and juveniles (i.e., dispersing life-history stages) of an amphidromous fish, Galaxias maculatus. We sampled juvenile fish on their return to 20 rivers in New Zealand: 10 rivers had abrupt transitions to the sea (i.e., emptying to an open coastline); these were paired with 10 nearby rivers that had gradual transitions to the sea (i.e., emptying into estuarine embayments). We reconstructed individual dispersal histories using otolith microstructure, otolith microchemistry, and stable isotope analysis. We found that fish recruiting to embayment rivers had distinct dispersal and foraging histories, were slower growing, smaller in size, and older than fish recruiting to nearby non-embayment rivers. Our results indicate that landscape edges can affect dispersal capabilities of aquatic organisms, potentially leading to divergent life-history strategies (i.e., limited- versus widespread-dispersal). Patterns also suggest that dispersal potential among landscape boundaries can create heterogeneity in the traits of individuals, with implications for metapopulation dynamics.

Supplementary tables attached below.