The influence of maternal condition on offspring performance in sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka

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Abstract

Eggs were taken from adult sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka that had reached their journey's end in spawn-ready and moribund condition, and fertilized by healthy males. Egg number, size, hatching success and offspring growth did not differ with maternal condition, which suggests the absence of any persisting physiological maternal effects. Differences were noted in the swimming behaviour and physiology of the offspring at parr stage. In a 30 min schooling test conducted using groups of five in a flume, parr from moribund females were more likely to fatigue, were not as tightly schooled, and had a diminished startle response, both in the per cent responding and the burst distance. In individual, confined swimming tests conducted within a tube, post-exercise plasma lactate concentration, which is an indicator of white muscle use, was greater for parr from moribund adult females. The moribund females also had elevated lactate following exercise (their migration), which suggests heritable differences may exist in muscle use. This study shows that juvenile O. nerka artificially propagated from females exhausted by their return migration can exhibit swimming performance differences, indicating that maternal condition may need to be considered in breeding programmes.

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