Paternal effects on early life history traits in Northwest Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua


Author's address: Muriel-Marie Kroll, Institute for Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, University of Hamburg, Olbersweg 24, D-22767 Hamburg, Germany.



It is important to understand parental effects on early life history of fish as manifested, for example, in individual fitness of offspring. Immediately after fertilization, parental contributions (both genetic and non-genetic) to embryos will affect larval ontogeny, physiology, morphology and survival. In marine fish, rates of natural mortality are highest during early life and are negatively correlated with rates of growth and body size. In these early life stages (eggs, larvae, young juveniles) subtle differences in mortality can cause large differences in recruitment and year-class success. Therefore, it is particularly critical to understand factors that contribute to variability in mortality during early life. This study focuses on evaluating the potential influence of paternity on rates of mortality and development in eggs and larvae of Northwest Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua. To accomplish this 12 males and two females were crossed using a full-factorial breeding design. Paternity had a strong influence on fertilization success, hatching success, cumulative embryonic mortality, larval standard length, eye diameter, yolk-sac area, and cumulative larval mortality. Female 1 showed an overall ‘weaker’ performance of offspring than Female 2, indicating that deviances can stem from differences in female quality. Nevertheless, paternal contributions to embryonic and larval development were still evident despite differences in female quality, showing that sire effects on offspring are undeniable and can serve as important sources of variation during early life stages in fishes. Overall, these findings have implications for furthering the understanding of recruitment variability and can be used to optimize reproductive output for the aquaculture industry. In addition, the data suggests that the choice of mate during spawning can play a large role in offspring fitness.