Contrasting survival strategies of hatchery and wild red drum: implications for stock enhancement



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Post-release survival of hatchery fishes is imperative to the success of any supplemental stocking program. The purpose of this research was to identify differences between hatchery and wild red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) and determine if pre-release exposure techniques improve survival of hatchery individuals. Objectives were to contrast survival skills of hatchery and wild red drum from different locations, and examine if exposure to natural stimuli (e.g., habitat, predators, live prey) enhances survival skills in na?ve hatchery red drum. Laboratory trials using high-speed videography (250 frames per second, fps) and field mesocosm experiments were used to investigate differences in prey-capture (e.g., attack distance, mean attack velocity, capture time, maximum gape, time to maximum gape, gape cycle duration, and foraging behaviors) and anti-predator performance (e.g., reaction distance, response distance, maximum velocity, time to maximum velocity, mean acceleration, and maximum acceleration) of hatchery and wild red drum. Results indicated that anti-predator performance measures differed significantly between hatchery and wild red drum. Variability in prey-capture and anti-predator performance for hatchery and wild red drum was high (CV range: 5.6 ? 76.5%), and was greatest for hatchery fish for the majority of performance variables tested. Exposure to habitat (Spartina alterniflora marsh) did not appear to afford any obvious survival benefits to hatchery red drum, although survival skills did vary according to ontogenetic stage. Hatchery red drum exposed to natural predators (pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides) exhibited significantly greater attack distances during feeding events, and anti-predator performance variables were 20 ? 300% in these individuals versus na?ve red drum. In predation experiments with free-ranging pinfish predators, mortality rates (Z) ranged from 0.047 ? 0.060 h-1 ? predator-1; however no significant differences in mortality were found between fish reared with and without predators. Hatchery red drum reared on live prey (Artemia franciscana, mysid shrimp) demonstrated enhanced prey-capture and foraging behaviors as well as anti-predator performance relative to fish reared on artificial (pellet) diets. Findings of this research indicate that several behavioral patterns differed between hatchery and wild red drum; however, these differences can be mediated through the use of various pre-release exposure techniques.