Species discrimination and life history of lampreys in interior Alaska rivers

Project Description

This study examined morphological and meristic characteristics, mitochondrial genetic variability, and life history of anadromous Arctic lamprey and freshwater-resident Alaskan brook lamprey in the Yukon River drainage to characterize the extent of differentiation between the two species. Although larval lampreys could not be differentiated by species using pigmentation density/patterns or trunk myomere counts, there were morphological differences for macropthalmia and adult life stages. There was no evidence of genetic differentiation, suggesting that there are no distinct lamprey populations or species in this drainage. No larval lampreys were collected in upper Chatanika and Chena River locations, where habitat was characterized as gravel, cobble, and small boulder substrates and swift flow. However, middle and lower river sites supported larvae, and these habitats had silt-sand substrates with woody debris and slow flow. Diet composition (organic detritus), assimilation efficiency (> 70%), and gut fullness (< 0.2 mg diet ash-free-dry-mass) were similar for larval lampreys. These findings identify the relationship between contrasting biology and life-history variation of anadromous and freshwater-resident lampreys in interior Alaska drainages sustained from a common gene pool.

Project Funding

Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Amount: $70,665
Start Date: 2010-07-00
End Date: 2016-12-00


Publications and products

Sutton, T. M. (2015). "Lamprey life history and ecology: an unexpected journey". UAF Research Showcase, February 2015, Fairbanks, Alaska.

Sutton, T. M., and J. A. Lopez. (2014). "Life history and variability of lampreys in interior Alaska rivers". 145th Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, August 2014, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Sutton, T. M. (2013). "Lamprey life history and ecology: an unexpected journey". Fisheries Division Seminar Series, March 2013, Fairbanks, Alaska.

Sutton, T. M., J. A. Lopez, and M. J. Evenson. (2011). "Life history and genetic variability of larval lampreys in interior of Alaska rivers". Alaska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Meeting, November 2011, Girdwood, Alaska.


Research Team

Trent Sutton

Trent Sutton

Principal Investigator

Associate Dean of Academic Programs; Professor


  • Recruitment dynamics of fishes
  • Fish habitat assessment
  • Population biology and ecology of fishes
  • Trophic ecology and food-web dynamics

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J. Andrés López

J. Andrés López

Principal Investigator

Associate Professor


  • Fish taxonomy and phylogenetics
  • Molecular phylogenetics and evolution
  • Phylogeography and population genetics of fishes

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Research Staff

Katie Shink
University of Alaska Fairbanks
College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
Fisheries Division