Growth Rates of Non-Native Bighead and Silver Carp in the Upper Mississippi River

Cortney Lynn Broaddus, James T. Lamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fish age and growth analyses can be used to infer spawning success, recruitment, and population age structure. Understanding these dynamics is important when assessing the impacts of invasive species, such as bighead carp, Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, and silver carp, H. molitrix, (bigheaded carp). These species have established throughout much of the Mississippi River Basin; however, Lock and Dam 19 (LD19) has slowed their establishment in the Upper Mississippi River, resulting in low-density populations with limited reproduction upstream. The age and growth of Bigheaded Carp in recently established populations, especially in this region, are poorly characterized. Therefore, we compared the age and growth of bigheaded carp for four low-density navigation pools of the Mississippi River near the invasion front with one long-established high-density population, separated by LD19. To assess growth rates and age at maturity, we estimated consensus age from pectoral spines, postcleithra, and vertebrae from 1229 bigheaded carp, 30 fish per 50 mm size class. Length at age of capture and back-calculated length-at-age were used to create growth curves using VBGC analysis. The analysis indicated higher growth rates of bighead carp and silver carp upstream of Lock and Dam 19 than downstream. Comparison of growth models with a likelihood ratio test indicated differences in length at time zero between the pools for bighead carp but not for silver carp. However, maximum length and growth rates were significantly different for silver carp upstream and downstream of the dam but not for bighead carp. These results will be used to better understand the population dynamics of this emerging population to inform control and containment actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Lock and Dam 19
  • Mississippi River
  • age and growth
  • bighead carp
  • invasive species
  • silver carp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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