Comparison of growth, diet and food consumption of sea-run and lake-dwelling Arctic charr


‡ Author to whom correspondence should be addressed at present address: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, N-9296 TromsØ, Norway. Tel.: +47 7775 0411; e-mail:


Sea-run post-smolt Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus, (15–26 cm) from Storvatn, northern Norway (70°39′48″N) had significantly higher average specific growth rates in two years (1·64 and 1·66) than the corresponding lake-dwelling charr (0·53 and 1·20). The post-smolts displayed fast compensatory growth in the first 2–3 weeks of their sea residency, but then almost stopped growing prior to their return to fresh water. Lake-dwelling charr grew more evenly during the same time period. Thus, the anadromous charr may return to the lake after only 5–6 weeks in the sea, because the potential to maintain a high growth rate in the sea is reduced. The marine diet consisted mainly of the two crustacean plankton species Calanus finmarchicus, and Thysanoëssa, sp. (88%), and less of fish (6%), insects (4%) and benthos (2%). The diet of lake-dwelling charr consisted mainly of insects (58%, mostly chironomid pupae) and zoobenthos (29%), and less of zooplankton (13%) during the same time period. Although post-smolts had the highest growth rates, they had significantly lower food consumption rates and higher frequencies of empty stomachs than the corresponding lake-dwelling fish. Possible explanations for this paradox are discussed in relation to stomach evacuation rates, water temperature, feeding behaviour and the energy content of the food in the two environments.