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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evidence for adaptive differences in the ontogeny of osmoregulatory ability, current response and salinity preference of coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch from coastal and interior populations Birch, Gary J.


This thesis examines the ontogeny of plasma sodium regulation (an indicator of osmoregulatory ability), current or rheotactic response (an indicator of emigration timing) and salinity preference in juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). The purpose of the study was to determine if there are inherited differences in the development of these traits between coastal and interior British Columbia populations of coho. An interior (Cold water River) and a coastal (Rosewall Creek-Big Qualicum River) population were monitored for the above traits throughout the year. Both wild and laboratory groups were included in the study. The laboratory raised populations were divided into two incubation treatment groups: one incubated under a coastal temperature regime, and the other incubated under an interior temperature regime. There were no differences in the development of sodium regulatory ability between wild populations when the data were sorted by coho weight. Coastal coho, however, physiologically smolted after one year in the natal streams, while interior coho smolted after at least two years of freshwater growth. No obvious differences were noted between wild resident populations in the timing of downstream movement or the shift in salinity preference from hypotonic to isotonic and hypertonic salinities. Both of these behavioural responses typically occurred in the spring (April-May) of each year. Fyke net catches, however, sugqested that, in addition to the spring emigrations observed in both populations, a portion of the interior population migrated in the fall (November). No differences in the development of sodium regulatory ability were observed either within or between laboratory raised populations. Ion regulatory ability increased to a plateau in the fall and winter following emergence, and increased to smolting levels during the following spring (April-May). There were differences between coastal and interior populations in the pattern of development of both nocturnal current responses and the preference for isotonic or hypertonic salinities. Interior laboratory raised coho developed negative nocturnal rheotaxis and a preference for isotonic salinities about three months earlier (November) than laboratory raised coastal coho (late February-March). Within populations, no differences were observed in the ontogeny of these traits in the groups reared under different temperature regimes. Because these interpopulation ontogenetic behavioural differences persisted in fish reared under identical laboratory conditions, they probably have some genetic basis. Such an innate component in behaviour implies an adaptive role and in juvenile coho these behavioural traits may allow populations to use a variety of habitats at different distances from the sea, even though a major physiological schedule (in this case the development of ion regulatory capabilities) appears to be fixed within the species. Perhaps variations in migratory timing and salinity preference in juvenile coho evolved to assure survival in a relatively unstable and often severe environment by optimizing habitat use within the constraints of an overriding physiological schedule.

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