Advent of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has allowed conservation biologists to use small portions of tissue to obtain genetic material for population genetic and taxonomic study. Fin clips are used extensively in large-sized fishes, but it is unclear how clipping enough fin tissue for genetic analysis will affect survival of smaller fishes such as minnows and darters, which are among the most threatened organisms in North America. We tested for effects of fin clipping on survival and swimming performance of non-threatened Brown Darters (Etheostoma edwini) in order to justify similar tissue collection in co-occurring endangered Okaloosa Darters (E. okaloosae). We collected 48 E. edwini from a small stream in northwest Florida, transported them to the laboratory, and randomly assigned them to one of three experimental groups: control, entire right pectoral fin removed, or rear half of caudal fin removed. Successful amplification of DNA indicated that our fin clips were large enough for genetic analysis using PCR. No mortality occurred during a two-month observation period. Fin regeneration was almost complete and we could not visually distinguish clipped fins from control fins after two months. We then randomly assigned fish into the same three experimental groups, clipped fins, and evaluated their ability to hold position at 20 cm/sec in an experimental flow chamber. Neither fish size nor treatment type affected position-holding behavior. Fin clipping does not adversely affect survival and swimming performance of E. edwini maintained in the laboratory. Additional research on the effects of fin clipping on small-sized fishes should be conducted in the field to evaluate survival under natural conditions.
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Vol. 2008 • No. 4