Western Brook Lamprey (Morrison Creek population)

Lampetra richardsoni

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

Western Brook Lampreys (Lampetra richardsoni) are small (up to approximately 18 centimetres), jawless, eel-like fish. They have circular-shaped mouths, and long, scaleless bodies. The Morrison Creek population of Western Brook Lamprey, known as the Morrison Creek Lamprey, is polymorphic. This means the species has more than one life history type, in this case both a parasitic and a non-parasitic type. It is highly unusual to have both parasitic freshwater and non–parasitic freshwater types present among lamprey populations.

For ammocoetes (the larval form of the species) these two life history types are indistinguishable. In the adult phase, the non-parasitic type is characterized by dark brown/grey colouration, and blunt teeth, while the parasitic type is characterized by silvery sides, a white under-belly, and sharp teeth.

Habitat

Morrison Creek Lampreys are only found in the Morrison Creek watershed in Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada.

Morrison Creek is a 24 kilometre long headwater stream fed by wetlands and springs. It maintains a relatively consistent cool stream temperature year-round. The stream bed is compacted sediment deposited from melting glaciers and ice sheets with patches of small gravel, and a large quantity of debris.

Little is known about the Morrison Creek Lamprey's specific habitat preferences, which are largely inferred from those of the Western Brook Lamprey. Morrison Creek Lampreys build nests in gravel and sand streambeds where eggs are deposited by females and fertilized by males. Ammocoetes are not sedentary, but use silty areas to burrow and feed. Soft substrates are believed to be important for refuge. Adults have not been observed to feed parasitically in the wild. They are believed to move throughout the creek in search for food or suitable spawning locations.

Threats

As Morrison Creek Lampreys have a limited distribution, the species can be considered very vulnerable to threats. Because of a lack of knowledge of Morrison Creek Lamprey, threat assessments are difficult. General threats to the species include land use, spills, landfill leachate, and declining prey base.

Some land-based activities can alter aquatic habitat directly or indirectly by changing water quality with sedimentation or pollutants, impacting riparian habitat, or altering run-off rates. The primary concern for land use in the Morrison Creek watershed is development.  Development pressures are increasing in the area and the Village of Cumberland is expanding into the upper Morrison Creek watershed. The Inland Island Highway runs parallel to part of Morrison Creek and crosses both the mainstem and a tributary. The risk of a harmful substance entering the creek in an accident is significant over the long term. A severe spill of a toxic substance would probably severely impact the population's distribution. The primary waste disposal facility for the Comox Valley Regional District is 1,100 metres southwest and uphill of Morrison Creek. It is over an unconfined and highly permeable aquifer. So far, no impacts have been detected in Morrison Creek surface waters.

Finally, Morrison Creek lampreys could be threatened by a decline in prey. Pacific salmon (O. spp.) and trout (Salvelinus spp.) are common in the watershed and are likely prey for Morrison Creek Lamprey. Declines in abundance of these groups of species may be a threat to the lamprey.

Further Information

The Western Brook Lamprey – Morrison Creek Population was listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. The Recovery Strategy for Morrison Creek Lamprey was published in 2007. It aimed to set goals and objectives to secure the species' long-term viability within its natural range. Since listing, outreach, awareness, and research on the species' taxonomy, biology, status, and watershed have all been undertaken.

Several general habitat stewardship projects that benefit the watershed have also been undertaken since the species was listed. In 2015, funding was secured to repair two barriers to fish movement, including the Morrison Creek Lamprey.  Under these projects, instream complexing, bank stabilization, riparian planting and fish passage restoration have occurred in Morrison Creek. It is hoped that these amendments will mitigate the impacts of potential habitat fragmentation on the Morrison Creek Lamprey.

This species is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

To find out if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' website.

Western Brook Lamprey (Morrison Creek population)

Photo Credit:  Western Brook Lamprey Morrison Creek population– “silver form” (top) and non-silver, traditional looking Western Brook Lamprey (bottom) Photo credit: Joy Wade.

Photo Credit: Western Brook Lamprey Morrison Creek population– “silver form” (top) and non-silver, traditional looking Western Brook Lamprey (bottom) Photo credit: Joy Wade.

Scientific Name: Lampetra richardsoni
SARA Status: Endangered, Schedule 1
COSEWIC Status: Endangered (April 2010)
Region: British Columbia

Region map

Region map, British Columbia

Did You Know?

Male Morrison Creek Lamprey construct redds (nests) by carrying tiny stones one-by-one with their circular mouths and by vibrating their bodies to create an indentation in the stream bed.

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