Examination of Bigheaded Carp Ovaries Indicates Batch Spawning

Allison W. Lenaerts, Alison A. Coulter, Kevin S. Irons, James T. Lamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fishes utilize several different species-specific reproductive strategies adapted to their environment. Invasive species may display reproductive strategies that allow successful reproduction in varying environments, such as batch and protracted spawning. Bighead Carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis and Silver Carp H. molitrix, referred to as bigheaded carp, are invasive species that have been introduced worldwide. In some invaded ranges, they either have a protracted spawning period and/or spawn multiple times in a season, which can be advantageous in novel environments. Reproductive strategies can vary between river systems or with environmental conditions, and understanding differences in strategies can improve management of bigheaded carp. To determine reproductive strategy, we evaluated the histology of spawning capable ovaries from Silver Carp (n = 58) and Bighead Carp (n = 38) collected during May–September 2016 and June 2017 from Pools 17–20 of the upper Mississippi River (UMR). We found that 87.9% of Silver Carp (n = 51) and 86.8% of Bighead Carp (n = 33) had an ovary that contained primary growth, cortical alveolar, and vitellogenic oocytes simultaneously. Multiple stages of oocytes within an ovary indicated that individuals were capable of spawning multiple times during a single year, and the presence of postovulatory follicle complexes demonstrated that individuals had already spawned while oocytes were still present. Based on histological samples, bigheaded carp appear to be indeterminate batch spawners, with oocytes continuing to develop throughout the spawning period. Silver and Bighead carp in the UMR may exhibit protracted and batch spawning and employ flexible spawning strategies among different river systems, which can increase the probability of successful recruitment in a variable environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-34
Number of pages10
JournalNorth American Journal of Fisheries Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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