Paradigm versus paradox on the prairie: testing competing stream fish movement frameworks using an imperiled Great Plains minnow. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Movement information can improve conservation of imperiled species, yet movement is not quantified for many organisms in need of conservation. Prairie chub (Macrhybopsis australis) is a regionally endemic freshwater fish with unquantified movement ecology and currently considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The purpose of this study was to test competing ecological theories for prairie chub movement, including the colonization cycle hypothesis (CCH) that posits adults must make upstream movements to compensate for downstream drift at early life stages, and the restricted movement paradigm (RMP) that describes populations as heterogeneous mixes of mostly stationary and few mobile fish. METHODS: We tagged prairie chub with visible implant elastomer during the summer (May-August) of 2019 and 2020 to estimate net distance moved (m) and movement rate (m/d). We tested the hypotheses that observed prairie chub movement would be greater than expected under the RMP and that prairie chub movement would be biased in an upstream direction as predicted by the CCH. RESULTS: We tagged 5771 prairie chub and recaptured 213 individuals across 2019 and 2020. The stationary and mobile components of the prairie chub population moved an order of magnitude further and faster than expected under the RMP during both years. However, we found only limited evidence of upstream bias in adult prairie chub movement as would be expected under the CCH. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings are partly inconsistent with the RMP and the CCH, and instead closely follow the drift paradox (DP), in which upstream populations persist despite presumed downstream drift during early life stages and in the apparent absence of upstream bias in recolonization. Previous mathematical solutions to the DP suggest organisms that experience drift maintain upstream populations through either minimization of drift periods such that small amounts of upstream movement are needed to counter the effects of advection or increasing dispersal regardless of directionality. We conclude that the resolution to the DP for prairie chub is an increase in total dispersal and our results provide insight into the spatial scales at which prairie chub conservation and management may need to operate to maintain broad-scale habitat connectivity.

published proceedings

  • Mov Ecol

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Steffensmeier, Z. D., Wedgeworth, M., Yancy, L., Santee, N., Brewer, S. K., & Perkin, J. S.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Steffensmeier, Zachary D||Wedgeworth, Maeghen||Yancy, Lauren||Santee, Noah||Brewer, Shannon K||Perkin, Joshuah S

publication date

  • February 2022