Body shape is related to the attempt rate and passage success of brook trout at in-stream barriers.
The ability to move between habitats has important implications for fitness in many species. In-stream barriers such as culverts can impede movements of riverine fishes and thus reduce connectivity between habitats. The ability of fish to overcome barriers is related to the features of the environment and the barrier itself, but also to physiological, morphological and behavioural traits of the fish. Among these, body shape varies among and within species, and influences swimming ability, a key component of passage performance through culverts. We conducted an experimental study on wild brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) to assess the effects of individual body shape on attempt rate and passage success through culverts on six streams. A more streamlined body shape was associated with an increased motivation to enter and ascend the culverts, and, to a lesser extent, with the probability of successful passage once an attempt was staged. Motivation and successful passage were also influenced by the density of conspecifics below the culvert, time of day, fish body size and water velocity. Policy implications. While fish body shape is expected to influence swimming performance, our research shows the most important effect of body shape to be on an individual's motivation to stage passage attempts at culverts. This study points to an important connection between behaviour and morphological traits that influence passage success and suggests that in-stream barriers may be an important agent of selection on behaviour and morphology in wild fish populations.