Heterogeneity in social interactions can have important consequences for the spread of information and diseases and consequently conservation and invasive species management. Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are a highly social, ubiquitous, and invasive freshwater fish. Management strategies targeting foraging carp may be ideal because laboratory studies have suggested that carp can learn, have individual personalities, a unique diet, and often form large social groups. To examine social feeding behaviors of wild carp, we injected 344 carp with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags and continuously monitored their feeding behaviors at multiple sites in a natural lake in Minnesota, USA. The high-resolution, spatio-temporal data were analyzed using a Gaussian mixture model (GMM). Based on these associations, we analyzed group size, feeding bout duration, and the heterogeneity and connectivity of carp social networks at foraging sites. Wild carp responded quickly to bait, forming aggregations most active from dusk to dawn. During the 2020 baiting period (20 days), 133 unique carp were detected 616,593 times. There was some evidence that feeding at multiple sites was constrained by basin geography, but not distance alone. GMM results suggested that feeding bouts were short, with frequent turnover of small groups. Individual foraging behavior was highly heterogeneous with Gini coefficients of 0.79 in 2020 and 0.66 in 2019. “Superfeeders”—those contributing to 80% of total cumulative detections (top 18% and top 29% of foragers in 2020 and 2019 respectively)—were more likely to be detected earlier at feeding stations, had larger body sizes, and had higher network measures of degree, weighted degree, and betweenness than non-superfeeders. Overall, our results indicate that wild carp foraging is social, easily induced by bait, dominated by large-bodied individuals, and potentially predictable, which suggests social behaviors could be leveraged in management of carp, one of the world's most recognizable and invasive fish.
Social associations in common carp (Cyprinus carpio): Insights from induced feeding aggregations for targeted management strategies
Ecology and Evolution
Article published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Article published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution