Freshwater sculpins: phylogenetics to ecology
Freshwater sculpins (Cottidae) are a diverse and ecologically important component of cool- and coldwater ecosystems throughout the northern hemisphere. More than 60 sculpin species occur in a variety of habitats, and sculpin distributions range from highly localized to widespread. Despite the frequently high biomass of sculpins and their numerous ecosystem functions, the traditional fisheries management emphasis on sport fishes has led to a general neglect of small-bodied, nongame fishes, such as sculpins, in both research and management. Ironically, in many coldwater ecosystems, salmonids are used as umbrella species to conserve and protect all aquatic vertebrates; however, many management and conservation goals may be better met by focusing on sculpins. This module arose from a symposium entitled "Ecology and Phylogeny of Freshwater and Diadromous Sculpin," which was held at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society in Anchorage, Alaska, and which brought together researchers studying sculpins from diverse perspectives. The objectives of this special module are to (1) publish a wealth of recent research on sculpins in one place to highlight the various scales at which sculpin research can be informative and useful, (2) stimulate interest in sculpins as targets of research and conservation, and (3) illustrate some conservation needs and management uses of sculpins that are unique from those of salmonids and other sport fishes. The papers in this module cover a range of topics, including phylogenetics of a species complex, tests of behavioral theories, and characteristics of sculpin movements, foraging, and reproduction. Together, these papers illustrate the importance of sculpins to a variety of fish communities and their usefulness in addressing theoretical questions and management objectives.