After many months of preparation, my colleague Noel Alfonso and I will soon be off to collect lampreys, those jawless fish-like vertebrates, in the Northwest Territories. This is part of a Canadian Museum of Nature-funded research project to learn more about the evolution of Arctic lampreys.
Our colleague Alexander M. Naseka from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, will also be joining us on our three-week field trip.
The purpose of this field trip is to collect two species of lampreys in rivers around Great Slave Lake: one species that feeds on fishes as an adult (also defined as parasitic), and one that does not feed as an adult.
There are many questions that we will seek answers to. The larvae of both lampreys live in the bottom of a river for a number of years, but neither has been properly described. The nonparasitic species (the one that doesn’t feed as adult) has been reported from one river (Martin) and the parasitic species has been reported from four rivers (Harris, Hay, Slave and Mackenzie). We will compare the larvae morphologically and molecularly to see if they are distinguishable.
Adults are more difficult to collect because they are found in higher concentrations only in gravelly areas with moderate current during the spawning period. We will be there when they have been reported to be spawning, so we are hoping to be lucky and catch them.
The three of us will be arriving in Yellowknife on the June 20, 2012. For the next three weeks, we will travel over 2000 kilometres by truck to the five rivers where lampreys were collected 40 years ago, and where we hope to collect them again this year (see map).
We will start with the Martin and Harris rivers near Fort Simpson, proceed to the Hay River near the community by the same name, followed by the Slave River around Fort Smith, close to the Alberta border, and finish up with the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence.
Watch out for further blogs in a couple of weeks.