Natal and intergenerational dispersal of riverine smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

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Quantifying the scale of offspring dispersal is essential for understanding demographic connectivity across landscapes and rates of population spread. However, characterizing natal dispersal in fishes is complicated by the difficulties of tracking origins and movement during early life-history stages. We combined direct observation of natal dispersal based on otolith chemistry with indirect estimates of dispersal from population genetics to quantify intergenerational dispersal of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) inhabiting a river network. Average parent-offspring dispersal was estimated as 7.7 km from genetic isolation-by-distance and demographic population data. Otolith chemistry indicated that adults were captured an average of 8.3 km from their natal tributary, supporting the genetics-based estimate. Our estimate of intergenerational dispersal is higher than previous estimates for lotic fishes and considerably higher than estimates for smallmouth bass in lake systems. Differences in availability of seasonal habitats for small-mouth bass may account for the contrasting scales of dispersal between lake and river populations. The large intergenerational dispersal distance of riverine smallmouth bass should be considered in conservation of fisheries or efforts to control invasive populations in river networks.