Status and Conservation of Lampreys in California
Peter B. Moyle, Larry R. Brown, Shawn D. Chase, and Rebecca M. Quiñones
Abstract.—Lampreys are among the least studied group of fishes in California. At least seven species inhabit freshwater habitats within the state, including the Kern brook lamprey Lampetra hubbsi, a California endemic. Four species are micropredators on fish, Pacific lamprey Entosphenus tridentatus (formerly L. tridentata), river lamprey L. ayresii, Klamath lamprey E. similis (formerly L. similis) and Goose Lake lamprey Entosphenus sp. The remaining three species are nonfeeding as adults and are presumed to have many populations isolated from one another. Pacific lamprey and river lamprey are anadromous and may have increased diversity through multiple runs. A systematic analysis of the limited information available indicates that, with the possible exception of the Pit-Klamath brook lamprey E. lethophagus (formerly L. lethophaga), all species are either declining, in low numbers, or in isolated populations. Causes of the declines are multiple and species-specific, but in general, alteration of watersheds by humans, resulting in increased siltation, temperatures and pollution, as well as other habitat changes are the principal causes. Protecting lampreys has the benefit of protecting stream ecosystems throughout the state because of the wide historic presence of lampreys and because ammocoetes require clean, cool water and relatively complex habitat, including stable backwaters.