Nyqvist, D., Schiavon, A., Candiotto, A. et al. 2023. PIT-tagging Italian spined loach (Cobitis bilineata): Methodology, survival and behavioural effects. Journal of Fish Biology 102(3), 575–580.

The Italian spined loach (Cobitis bilineata) is an elongated, small-sized (<12 cm) spined loach native to northern Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. As for loaches in general, little is known about the individual movements of this loach in nature. Passive integrated transponders (PIT-tags) are small (typically 7–32 mm), relatively cheap and allow tracking of individual fish movements and behaviour. A fundamental assumption in animal telemetry is that the performance of a tagged animal does not deviate substantially from its natural performance. Although PIT-tagged fish often display high survival and tag retention, the effect varies between species and contexts, and few studies have looked at behavioural effects of PIT-tagging. Here we demonstrate a PIT-tagging methodology for spined loaches, and compare survival, activity and provoked escape response (maximum swimming speed) between tagged and control fish. We also track tag retention in the tagged fish. Italian spined loaches tagged with 12 mm PIT-tags displayed high tag retention and no extra mortality, and no effects of tagging on activity or maximum swimming speed were observed. The tag-to-fish weight and length ratios in our study ranged from 2% to 5% and from 10% to 16%, respectively, and we conclude that PIT-tagging, within these ratios, appears suitable for Italian spined loach.

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