This study explored the relative competitive ability and performance of first-feeding growth hormone (GH) transgenic and non-transgenic Atlantic salmon Salmo salar fry under low food conditions. Pair-wise dominance trials indicated a strong competitive advantage for residents of a contested foraging territory. Transgenic and non-transgenic individuals, however, were equally likely to be dominant. Similarly, in stream environments with limited food, the transgene did not influence the growth in mass or survival at high or low fry densities. Fry in low-density treatments, however, performed better than fry in high-density treatments. These results indicate that, under the environment examined, the growth performance of GH-transgenic and non-transgenic S. salar may be similar during first feeding, an intense period of selection in their life history. Similarities in competitive ability and growth performance with wild-type fish suggest that the capacity of transgenic S. salar to establish in natural streams may not be inhibited during early life history.
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