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High frequency depth changes in Atlantic cod studied with implanted data storage tags

Björn Björnsson*, Hjalti Karlsson, Andreas Macrander

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The main aim was to study high frequency depth changes in wild adult cod. The analysis was based on depth measurements collected with implanted data storage tags. The study was part of a ranching project carried out in an Icelandic fjord. In the project, net bags with frozen fish were regularly provided during daytime at four stations where some cod formed distinct ‘herds’ (herd cod) that did not mingle much with the rest of the unconditioned cod in the fjord (wild cod). After tagging, some of the cod resumed life in the herds, whereas other cod left the herds immediately. On twenty subsequent Mondays the electronic tags were programmed to measure at the highest frequency (every 30 s) and these results were used to study high frequency depth changes in four wild cod and four herd cod as a control group. Several times, rapid cyclical depth changes were observed in both groups. This behaviour, which sometimes lasted for hours, was highest during dawn and dusk in wild cod but peaked during daytime in herd cod after deployment of the feed bags. The occurrence and properties of these vertical undulations varied greatly between fish, dates, and time of day. Most commonly the periods of the cycles varied between 1-4 minutes and the heights between 2-4 m, but there were examples of much larger undulations. The results indicate that wild adult cod swim along vertically undulating paths when searching for prey, most likely to optimize foraging.