Acoustic telemetry, Mortality, Predation, Prey, Spatial ecology, Survival, Tracking
Background: Acoustic telemetry is a commonly used tool to gain knowledge about aquatic animal ecology through the study of their movements. In telemetry studies researchers must make inferences regarding the movements and the fates of tagged animals. Until recently, predation has been inferred in telemetry data using a variety of methods including abrupt changes in movement patterns or habitat use. An acoustic telemetry transmitter has been developed to detect predation events of tagged animals, and while they have performed well in controlled laboratory trials, literature regarding the application of these novel transmitters in field settings is limited. The objective of this research was to describe the detection data obtained from field studies using predation tags and propose methods to incorporate this information in decision-making about the fate of tagged animals. We implanted 60 yellow perch (Perca flavescens) with predation transmitters and evaluated their spatial use in a receiver array (34 ha) using a combination of centres of activity, roaming indices, and step length measures to examine detection data. Results: Over 5 months, 19 apparent predation events were identified by the transmitters. Roaming indices and centres of activity revealed a variety of detection patterns, including instances of altered behaviour before and after predation that matched tag-indentified predation events, dropped tags post-predation, and detections that ceased post-predation indicating the predator might have left the array. Based on the observed patterns, probable predation was inferred for 15 of 19 triggered tags, with unclear fates for four fish. Conclusions: Our study provided a framework to assess the fate of animals tagged with predation transmitters and demonstrate how these tags can contribute to telemetry studies. We showed how detections can be categorized using tag status to compare movement metrics among individuals, provided tools to explore space use surrounding predation events, and synthesized this information to inform uncertainty surrounding tag-identified predation events. Predation tags do not remove all uncertainty about the fate of tagged individuals, but combined with other metrics they increase the likelihood of identifying abnormal movements that could otherwise introduce biased detection histories into studies of small-sized fishes.
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Weinz, Amy A.; Matley, Jordan K.; Klinard, Natalie V.; Fisk, Aaron T.; and Colborne, Scott F.. (2020). Identification of predation events in wild fish using novel acoustic transmitters. Animal Biotelemetry, 8 (1).