Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Gut Check Time
Midwest Region, July 29, 2010
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Have you ever caught a fish and wondered what it had eaten recently?  One sure fire way to find out is to dissect the fish and examine its stomach content, but this technique is undesirable when studying a species you are attempting to conserve.  A slick technique called gastric lavage allows scientists to examine a fish’s diet without killing or injuring the fish.  Gastric lavage works by forcing water into a fish’s digestive tract, causing the fish to regurgitate any recent meals.  While the principle is simple, there are a few “tricks of the trade”.

During July, Columbia FWCO staff members Colby Wrasse, Scott Childers, Randi Preece, and Clint Feger travelled to Chillicothe, Missouri to meet with Missouri Department of Conservation scientists experienced with gastric lavage.  Darby Niswonger and Jason Dattilo demonstrated their techniques for safely examining the stomach contents of shovelnose sturgeon.

Understanding diet compositions can be vital information when managing fish populations.  Although much research has been performed on the fishes of the lower Missouri River, there are still many knowledge gaps, including diet compositions of many fish species.  Scott Childers plans to use his newly acquired gastric lavage skills for an undergraduate research project involving blue suckers.  In the future we hope to employ gastric lavage on pallid sturgeon to better understand their food usage on the lower Missouri River.   We thank the Missouri Department of Conservation for their time and willingness to work with us.


Contact Info: Colby Wrasse, 573-234-2132 x30, colby_wrasse@fws.gov
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