Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Whitledge, Gregory


Asian carp have rapidly expanded their range through much of the Mississippi River Drainage over the past 10 to 15 years. Silver and bighead carp are now the dominant fish species present along several reaches of the Illinois River. The upper Illinois River and shipping canals entering Lake Michigan are of great concern as pathways for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes. Knowledge of reproductive habitats and dispersal pathways for these species may be valuable for ongoing and future efforts to control these exotic invasives. Previous studies have successfully identified spawning areas of native riverine species via otolith microchemistry, but this technique has not yet been applied to Asian carps. Both stable isotope and trace element ratios have been found to differ significantly among the large rivers of the Mississippi River drainage, enabling identification of natal environment for individual fish. The primary objective of this study was to identify differences in natal river origin and floodplain habitat use through the incorporation of trace elements (Sr:Ca) and stable isotopes (δ18O and δ13C). Silver and bighead carp were collected via electrofishing and trammel netting along four reaches of the Illinois River from the Mississippi-Illinois River confluence at Grafton, IL to the upper segment of the Illinois River upstream of Starved Rock State Park. Sagittal otoliths were removed from both silver and bighead carp collected from each of the four reaches of the Illinois River for analysis of stable isotope ratios and trace element concentrations. Water samples were collected seasonally from the four reaches of the Illinois River and several of its associated floodplain lakes in addition to the Missouri, Upper Mississippi and Middle Mississippi Rivers to validate water signatures of the various river reaches. Results indicated the majority of adult Asian carp caught in the Illinois River originated from the Illinois. However, there was strong evidence indicating roughly twenty percent of captured adults were in fact immigrants from other sources; primarily the Middle Mississippi river and, to a lesser extent, the Missouri River. Stable isotope results indicated that Asian carps primarily used river channel rather than floodplain lake habitats during early life. The findings of this study suggest current Asian carp removal efforts should continue to be primarily directed within the Illinois River, however, the evidence of immigrant silver carp indicate expanding the control efforts into other rivers (Middle Mississippi River and Missouri River) will further support the control of Asian carp within the Illinois River.




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