The factors that drive partial migration in organisms are not fully understood. Roach (Rutilus rutilus), a freshwater fish, engage in partial migration where parts of populations switch between summer habitats in lakes and winter habitats in connected streams. To test if the partial migration trait is phenotypically plastic or has genetic components, we translocated roach from 2 populations with different opportunities for migration to a lake with migration opportunity, containing a local roach population. This enabled monitoring of partial migration of fish in 3 different situations: 1) previous opportunity for migration, migrating in a familiar environment (the local population); 2) previous opportunity for migration, migrating in an unfamiliar environment; and 3) no previous opportunity for seasonal migration, migrating in an unfamiliar environment. In addition, we evaluated the migration patterns of roach in the lake with migration opportunity where from group 2 fish were translocated. Directional migration in and out of the lakes was monitored using Passive Integrated Transponder technology. Translocated fish with previous migration opportunity showed migration patterns more similar to local fish than to their home lake population, and individuals translocated from the lake without migration opportunity migrated when given the opportunity, suggesting that partial migration is phenotypically plastic and triggered by lake-specific environmental cues. We found temperature to be a proximate cue for migration decisions. Individuals without previous migration opportunity migrated at a lower proportion and with different small-scale migration patterns, suggesting that also genetic components are involved in the expression of the partial migration trait.
Skov, C., Aarestrup, K., Baktoft, H., Brodersen, J., Brönmark, C., Hansson, L-A., ... Nilsson, A. (2010). Influences of environmental cues, migration history and habitat familiarity on partial migration. Behavioral Ecology, 21(6), 1140-1146. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arq121