Swimming performance and invasion potential of the round goby

Keith B. Tierney
Ashley V. Kasurak, University of Windsor
Barbara S. Zielinski, University of Windsor
Dennis M. Higgs, University of Windsor


European round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) are displacing several important native North American fish species. Controlling their invasion is contingent on understanding their swimming inclination and potential. We assessed goby swimming inclination by recording activity in a 2 m flume over a ~24 h period, and swimming potential using a critical swimming (Ucrit) test, as well as burst tests in still and flowing water. When given the choice to move, gobies covered as much as 14 m/h, with a slight bias towards nocturnal activity and an overall upstream preference. When confined and coerced to perform a Ucrit test, they burst-and-held to achieve 35.5 ± 1.1 cm/s. Thirty minutes following Ucrit, they were able to burst-and-coast in a sprint test to almost twice this speed. In still water, they exhibited startle bursts of up to 163 cm/s. We provide a swimming endurance model that indicates flow rates would need to be > 125 cm/s to prevent upstream movement, and free of refuge areas in which to recover. The current study shows that the round goby is a surprisingly powerful swimmer with the capacity to continue its invasion should hydrologic control be absent.