Publications by authors named "Gavin L Butler"

4 Publications

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Nonlethal age estimation of three threatened fish species using DNA methylation: Australian lungfish, Murray cod and Mary River cod.

Mol Ecol Resour 2021 Jun 23. Epub 2021 Jun 23.

School of Biological Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA, Australia.

Age-based demography is fundamental to management of wild fish populations. Age estimates for individuals can determine rates of change in key life-history parameters such as length, maturity, mortality and fecundity. These age-based characteristics are critical for population viability analysis in endangered species and for developing sustainable harvest strategies. For teleost fish, age has traditionally been determined by counting increments formed in calcified structures such as otoliths. However, the collection of otoliths is lethal and therefore undesirable for threatened species. At a molecular level, age can be predicted by measuring DNA methylation. Here, we use previously identified age-associated sites of DNA methylation in zebrafish (Danio rerio) to develop two epigenetic clocks for three threatened freshwater fish species. One epigenetic clock was developed for the Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) and the second for the Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) and Mary River cod (Maccullochella mariensis). Age estimation models were calibrated using either known-age individuals, ages derived from otoliths or bomb radiocarbon dating of scales. We demonstrate a high Pearson's correlation between the chronological and predicted age in both the Lungfish clock (cor = .98) and Maccullochella clock (cor = .92). The median absolute error rate for both epigenetic clocks was also low (Lungfish = 0.86 years; Maccullochella = 0.34 years). This study demonstrates the transferability of DNA methylation sites for age prediction between highly phylogenetically divergent fish species. Given the method is nonlethal and suited to automation, age prediction by DNA methylation has the potential to improve fisheries and other wildlife management settings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.13440DOI Listing
June 2021

Effects of a low-head weir on multi-scaled movement and behavior of three riverine fish species.

Sci Rep 2020 04 22;10(1):6817. Epub 2020 Apr 22.

Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, 4111, Australia.

Despite providing considerable benefits to society, dams and weirs threaten riverine ecosystems by disrupting movement and migration of aquatic animals and degrading riverine habitats. Whilst the ecological impacts of large dams are well studied, the ecological effects of low-head weirs that are periodically drowned out by high flows are less well-understood. Here we examine the effects of a low-head weir on fine- and broad-scale movements, habitat use, and breeding behaviour of three species of native freshwater fish in the Nymboida River in coastal eastern Australia. Acoustic telemetry revealed that eastern freshwater cod (Maccullochella ikei) and eel-tailed catfish (Tandanus tandanus) made few large-scale movements, but Australian bass (Percalates novemaculeata) upstream of the weir were significantly more mobile than those below the weir. Within the weir pool, all three species displayed distinctive patterns in fine-scale movement behaviour that were likely related the deeper lentic environment created by the weir. No individuals of any species crossed the weir during the study period. Tandanus tandanus nesting behaviour varied greatly above and below the weir, where individuals in the more lentic upstream environment nested in potentially sub-optimal habitats. Our results demonstrate the potential effects of low-head weirs on movement and behaviour of freshwater fishes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-63005-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7176731PMC
April 2020

Abiotic drivers of activity in a large, free-ranging, freshwater teleost, Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii).

PLoS One 2018 8;13(6):e0198972. Epub 2018 Jun 8.

Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury, New South Wales, Australia.

The allocation of time and energy to different behaviours can impact survival and fitness, and ultimately influence population dynamics. Intrinsically, the rate at which animals expend energy is a key component in understanding how they interact with surrounding environments. Activity, derived through locomotion and basic metabolism, represents the principal energy cost for most animals, although it is rarely quantified in the field. We examined some abiotic drivers of variability in locomotor activity of a free-ranging freshwater predatory fish, Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii), for six months using tri-axial accelerometers. Murray cod (n = 20) occupied discrete river reaches and generally exhibited small-scale movements (<5 km). Activity was highest during crepuscular and nocturnal periods when water temperatures were warmest (19-30°C; January-March). As water temperatures cooled (9-21°C; April-June) Murray cod were active throughout the full diel cycle and dormant periods were rarely observed. Light level, water temperature and river discharge all had a significant, non-linear effect on activity. Activity peaked during low light levels, at water temperatures of ~20°C, and at discharge rates of ~400 ML d-1. The temporal changes observed in the behaviour of Murray cod likely reflect the complex interactions between physiological requirements and prey resource behaviour and availability in driving activity, and highlight the importance of empirical field data to inform bioenergetics models.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0198972PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5993306PMC
January 2019

Testing Three Species Distribution Modelling Strategies to Define Fish Assemblage Reference Conditions for Stream Bioassessment and Related Applications.

PLoS One 2016 12;11(1):e0146728. Epub 2016 Jan 12.

NSW Department of Primary Industries, Grafton Fisheries Centre, Grafton, Australia.

Species distribution models are widely used for stream bioassessment, estimating changes in habitat suitability and identifying conservation priorities. We tested the accuracy of three modelling strategies (single species ensemble, multi-species response and community classification models) to predict fish assemblages at reference stream segments in coastal subtropical Australia. We aimed to evaluate each modelling strategy for consistency of predictor variable selection; determine which strategy is most suitable for stream bioassessment using fish indicators; and appraise which strategies best match other stream management applications. Five models, one single species ensemble, two multi-species response and two community classification models, were calibrated using fish species presence-absence data from 103 reference sites. Models were evaluated for generality and transferability through space and time using four external reference site datasets. Elevation and catchment slope were consistently identified as key correlates of fish assemblage composition among models. The community classification models had high omission error rates and contributed fewer taxa to the 'expected' component of the taxonomic completeness (O/E50) index than the other strategies. This potentially decreases the model sensitivity for site impact assessment. The ensemble model accurately and precisely modelled O/E50 for the training data, but produced biased predictions for the external datasets. The multi-species response models afforded relatively high accuracy and precision coupled with low bias across external datasets and had lower taxa omission rates than the community classification models. They inherently included rare, but predictable species while excluding species that were poorly modelled among all strategies. We suggest that the multi-species response modelling strategy is most suited to bioassessment using freshwater fish assemblages in our study area. At the species level, the ensemble model exhibited high sensitivity without reductions in specificity, relative to the other models. We suggest that this strategy is well suited to other non-bioassessment stream management applications, e.g., identifying priority areas for species conservation.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0146728PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4710458PMC
July 2016
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