Bet-hedging bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) recruit episodically over a 127-year timeframe in saskatchewan

Alec R Lackmann, Jeff Sereda, Mike Pollock, Reid Bryshun, Michelle Chupik, Katlin McCallum, James Villeneuve, Ewelina S. Bielak-Lackmann, Mark E. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) is an iconic freshwater fish native to North America that is in decline. Recent studies have revealed bigmouth buffalo exhibit a slow pace of life, yet demographic information on bigmouth buffalo outside of North Dakota and Minnesota is lacking. We used otoliths to investigate population demographics of bigmouth buffalo in Canada, and also monitored bigmouth buffalo spawning frequency and reproductive success in the wild. From a sample of 52 fish collected during 2018–2021 we found bigmouth buffalo from the Qu’Appelle system more than 125 years old. Only 13 year classes ranging from 1894–1997 were evident with one year class since 1948, indicating recruitment has been episodic. During the past decade (2013–2022) bigmouth buffalo have spawned only once (May 2013) in Buffalo Pound Lake. This spawning effort culminated in recruitment failure because the water-level recession rate was too rapid. Our findings indicate that bigmouth buffalo spawning attempts as well as recruitment occur within a narrow range of water-level fluctuations that may rarely occur, which is enabled by their supercentenarian lifespan, and has direct implications for the conservation of this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-329
Number of pages17
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Habitat Stewardship Program, Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund, the Water Security Agency, and the University of Saskatchewan for funding this work. We would also like to thank the University of Minnesota Duluth Department of Biology.

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Habitat Stewardship Program (Environment and Climate Change Canada Finance ID: 2016HSP7656), the Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund (grant No. EDF-SK-2020b001), the Water Security Agency of Saskatchewan, and the University of Saskatchewan.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s).


  • Buffalofish
  • Episodic recruitment
  • Otoliths
  • Qu’Appelle
  • Supercentenarians


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