This study examined the effect of dietary carotenoid availability on carotenoid and retinoid concentrations in the flesh, plasma, skin and eggs of female Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha. Carotenoid concentrations in all tissues were closely related to dietary availability. Early in the breeding season, carotenoids were stored primarily in the muscle, with a flesh carotenoid concentration of 9·9 µg g−1 in fish fed a high carotenoid diet compared with 1·9 µg g−1 in fish fed a low carotenoid diet. During the breeding season, carotenoid reserves were mobilized predominantly to the eggs and also to the skin. By the end of the breeding season, carotenoid concentrations in the eggs were 17·9 µg g−1 in fish fed a high carotenoid diet and 3·9 µg g−1 in fish fed a low carotenoid diet. Conversely, egg retinoid concentrations were only c. 20% lower in fish fed a low v. high carotenoid diet, which suggests that retinoid concentrations were not limited by the availability of carotenoid precursors. Egg carotenoid concentrations were not correlated with either skin carotenoid concentration or colouration, which suggests that female carotenoid displays are not a reliable signal that males can use to evaluate egg carotenoid resources.
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