A rapid assessment approach for evaluating silver carp gender.
Silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix were introduced into the U.S. to control water quality in aquaculture ponds. From this point of origin, silver carp escaped into nearby rivers through multiple flood events. Because of their documented negative effects on native biota, silver carp have been labeled as problematic. Therefore, evaluating the biology and ecology of these non-indigenous species is critical. Multiple parameters are needed to evaluate silver carp populations (length, weight, age, and sex). Furthermore, developing methods for rapidly acquiring these data are needed. In relation to sex determination, sexual dimorphism was observed where males exhibit distinct pectoral fin ray features. Specifically, males have pronounced ridges or a " rough patch" on the dorsal surface of pectoral fins. Therefore, to test if this was an applicable way of determining silver carp gender; silver carp were collected from Midwestern U.S. rivers (N=2015) in the fall of 2011 (N=870), spring of 2012 (N=645), winter of 2013-2014 (N=202) and summer 2015 (N=323) via electrofishing. For each silver carp collected, presence (e.g., rough patch) or absence (e.g., smooth) of pronounced ridges on the top side of the pectoral fins was recorded, and an incision was made in the body cavity to identify gender. Based on the results of our evaluation, gender was correctly identified over 99% of the time (2006 out of 2015) based on the pectoral fin dimorphism. In the samples taken in the winter of 2013-2014 and summer of 2015, accuracy for silver carp shorter than 300 mm and longer than 800 mm was 53.7% (19 out of 41) while accuracy for silver carp between 300 mm and 800 mm total length was 98.9% (289 out of 292). This study provides a rapid assessment approach for evaluating silver carp gender.