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Factors affecting the timing and success of sockeye salmon spawning migrations Crossin, Glenn Terrence


Migration timing is a conserved life-history trait. To address the hypothesis that reproductive hormones are principal determinants of migration timing, I physiologically biopsied over 1000 sockeye salmon and monitored their subsequent behaviour with acoustic and radio telemetry as they migrated from the Pacific Ocean toward and into the Fraser River, and then onward to distant spawning areas. Links between physiology, behaviour, and survival were examined. Circulating testosterone was found to be positively correlated with the rates of river entry in Late-run females but not in males, despite having concentrations that were equal if not higher than those of females. The notion of protandrous migration, in which males synchronize their activities to the reproductive and migratory schedules of females, was postulated as the basis for this difference. Once in river however, successful males and females were those that (1) took longest to enter the river, and (2) had high somatic energy, low testosterone, and low gill Na+,K+-ATPase activities. An experimental test of the effect of reproductive hormones on the regulation of migration timing proved inconclusive. Relative to controls, GnRH and (or) testosterone treatment did not influence rates of ocean travel by males. Unfortunately, no females were examined. Nevertheless, significant, positive correlations between initial testosterone and travel times were found irrespective of hormonal treatment, which was unexpected but consistent with the previous studies. In an experimental simulation of an ‘early’ migration, normally timed Late-run sockeye exposed to typical 10 ºC river temperatures and then released to complete migration were 68% successful. In contrast, salmon held at 18 °C and released were half as successful. The expression of a kidney parasite was near maximal in the 18 °C fish and undetectable in the 10 °C fish. Only gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity differed between groups, with a drop in the 18 °C fish. Though no clear stress, reproductive, or energetic differences were observed between groups, the ultimate effect of high temperature treatment was high disease expression, slowed migration speeds, and high migration mortality. Changes in reproductive schedules, due to changes in latitudinal ocean distributions, are discussed as potential causes of early migration by Late-run sockeye.

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