The pitfall with PIT tags: Marking freshwater bivalves for translocation induces short-term behavioural costs

Conor Wilson, Gareth Arnott, Neil Reid, David Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Tagging animals is frequently employed in ecological studies to monitor individual behaviour, for example postrelease survival and dispersal of captive-bred animals used in conservation programmes. While the majority of studies focus on the efficacy of tags in facilitating the relocation and identification of individuals, few assess the direct effects of tagging in biasing animal behaviour. We used an experimental approach with a control to differentiate the effects of handling and tagging captive-bred juvenile freshwater pearl mussels, Margaritifera margaritifera, prior to release into the wild. Marking individuals with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags significantly decreased their burrowing rate and, therefore, increased the time taken to burrow into the substrate. This effect was contributed to, in part, by the detrimental impacts of handling, which also significantly affected activity, burrowing ability and the time taken for each individual to emerge and start probing the substrate. Disturbance during handling and tagging may lead to indirect mortality after release by increasing the risk of predation or dislodgement during flooding, thereby potentially compromising any conservation strategy contingent on population supplementation or reintroduction. This is the first study to demonstrate that handling and PIT tagging has a detrimental impact on invertebrate behaviour. Moreover, our results provide useful information that will inform freshwater bivalve conservation strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-346
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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