Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Watershed Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Todd Crowl


Todd Crowl


Karen Mock


Phaedra Budy


Chris Luecke


Mike Pfrender


Ecomorphological specialization within Catostomidae in several large western North American lakes has produced populations including typical benthic suckers (Catostomus) and lakesuckers (Chasmistes), mid-water planktivores, with a continuum of morphologies existing between them. All extant lakesuckers are endangered, and population declines have been attributed in part to hybridization with sympatric Catostomus spp. Chapter 2 describes assessment for concordance of morphological and genetic variation in suckers in Utah Lake, Utah (June sucker, Chasmistes liorus; Utah sucker, Catostomus ardens; and suckers of intermediate morphology) by comparing a morphological analysis with amplified fragment length polymorphism and microsatellite analyses. Suckers were differentiated using characters associated with presumed feeding strategies: zooplanktivory (June sucker) and benthivory (Utah sucker). No molecular evidence was found for deep genetic divergence between morphs or for hybridization among ancient lineages. Slight population structuring accompanied substantial morphological variation. Chapter 3 describes the investigation of distribution and movement, spawning behavior, and diet of suckers in Utah Lake and their growth at different densities in a laboratory experiment. Acoustic / radio telemetry revealed little difference in movement and distribution of June sucker and Utah sucker or in timing of spawning runs. Stable isotopes analysis revealed that Utah sucker were enriched in 13C relative to June sucker as presumed diets would predict. Intermediate morphs were intermediate for δ13C and δ15N. Neither species nor density was a significant predictor of growth rate of June sucker or Utah sucker reared at different conspecific densities. Chapter 4 examines morphology, genetics, and diet of the sucker population inJackson Lake, Wyoming, once home of the extinct Snake River sucker, Chasmistes muriei, a lakesucker known from a single specimen. Currently, suckers in Jackson Lake are identified as Utah sucker; however, recently sampled individuals resemble lakesucker. No molecular evidence was found for deep genetic divergence between lakesucker and benthic morphs or for hybridization among ancient lineages. The benthic morph was significantly enriched in 13C relative to the lakesucker morph, consistent with presumed diets. Morphologically, the lone Snake River sucker holotype specimen grouped strongly with extant lakesucker morphs, suggesting that the status of the Snake River sucker be updated accordingly.