Sunday, May 4, 2014

So you slept through science class–what does “anadromous” mean?

Here’s the next post in our occasional series, “so you slept through science class.”  All those questions about the natural world that you were afraid (or didn’t know) to ask!

It’s spring, so that means that the shad are running in the Potomac river!  20140419172916  Shad are an anadromous fish in the Chesapeake Bay region -- so what does anadromous mean?  Salmon are the poster children for anadromous fish that most folks know – they live their adult lives in saltwater and migrate to freshwater to spawn (breed).  Other than the obvious environmental challenges of switching from a saltwater to a freshwater environment, man-made environmental challenges also exist for these fish.  Challenges for these fish include dams, which create barriers for the fish as they try to move upstream.  According to NOAA, over 5,000 miles of fish habitat are currently blocked in the Chesapeake Bay area!   In 2005, the Chesapeake Bay Program initiated a program to complete 100 fish passages or dam removals by 2014.  That means that 1,000 new miles of fish habitat is now available to migrating fish! 

The opposite of anadromous fish is “catadromous” fish, or fish that live in freshwater, but migrate to saltwater to breed.  In the Chesapeake Bay area, we’re talking eels!

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