Bowfin Factoid

Published on: Jun. 27, 2011

After the fun of field work follows the drudgery of data entry. It is the necessary evil of collecting and utilizing information. However, this is all part of the scientific process and can lead to further understanding of our critters and the environment that surrounds them.

Over the last few weeks I came across some Duck Creek history and a couple cool nuggets of knowledge from previous research that I thought I'd pass on. In 1962 and 1963, Hugh Holland was a student out of the Gaylord Laboratory (the white building next to Duck Creek Headquarters), which was a research extension of the University of Missouri for 50 years. His research focused on the ecology of bowfin (growth rate, age, food habits, reproduction and behavior) at Duck Creek CA and Mingo NWR. During his research, Holland found that bowfin typically grow between 7-9 inches during their first year. As the fish gets older the growth rate slows down. Typically, by the age of 5 or 6 these fish reach 20 inches long.

In our sampling effort this spring we did catch a few larger bowfin that would fall into this 5-6 year range according to their size; however, most of our bowfin were young of the year. What was cool to see as we caught salamanders, crayfish and other species of fish over a month’s time was the noticeable growth of these little guys. Looking through our data sheets at the beginning of May, most of the bowfin we caught were around 62 mm (2.4 inches). A month later at the end of our sampling, these voracious eaters were measuring around 120 mm (4.7 inches). So within a month they grew more than an inch as they feasted on everything from aquatic bugs to other fish, which backs up Holland’s previous work that these guys can really stretch out during their first year.

We still have a ways to go with our data entry and analysis from this spring, but I thought this was kind of a cool insight that related past and present research at Duck Creek and helped me understand a little more about one of the species that calls the Mingo Basin home.

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