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Osmotic and ionic regulation in embryos, alevins and fry of the five species of Pacific salmon Weisbart, Melvin


The major purpose of this study was to examine the physiological basis of the differences in the early life histories of pink Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, chum O. keta, coho O. kisutch, chinook O. tshawytscha and sockeye O. nerka. To this end, the following working hypotheses were tested: (i) the embryo, alevin and fry of pink and chum salmon are euryhaline, whereas the same life stages of coho, chinook and sockeye are stenohaline and (ii) the euryhalinity of pink and chum is due not to high tissue tolerance but to their ability to regulate the osmotic and ionic concentrations in their blood, whereas the stenohalinity of coho, chinook and sockeye stems from their inability to osmoregulate and ion regulate. The results did not completely support these hypotheses. The LD₅₀ values and the osmoregulatory data obtained from embryos indicated that pink and chum are not euryhaline as hypothesized but like coho, chinook and sockeye embryos are stenohaline. However, pink and chum embryos showed significantly greater salinity resistance and osmoregulatory ability than embryos of the other species. The data obtained from alevins also did not support the working hypothesis for alevins of all five species were found to be stenohaline. But, as in the case for embryos, pink and chum alevins showed greater salinity resistance and osmoregulatory abilities than coho and sockeye alevins. This ability of pink and chum was correlated with better ionic regulation of sodium and chloride. Although chinook alevins survived considerably longer in 31.8 °/oo sea water than coho and sockeye alevins , their ability to osmoregulate and ion regulatewas not very different from that of coho and sockeye alevins. It was concluded, therefore, that the greater salinity resistance of chinook alevins was due to high tissue tolerance. Contrary to the results with embryos and alevins, the data obtained from fry supported the working hypotheses. The results showed that pink and chum were euryhaline and that this condition was due to their ability to osmoregulate and control the levels of sodium and chloride in the blood. Coho, chinook and sockeye fry were found to be stenohaline and were unable to regulate the osmotic and ionic concentrations in their blood. As in the case of alevins, chinook fry, due to higher tissue tolerance, manifested greater salinity resistance than coho and sockeye. When the data for all species of embryos and fry were grouped and compared to the alevins taken as a group, the LD₅₀ values of embryos and fry were found to be significantly greater than those of the alevins . The blood osmotic concentrations of embryos and fry exposed for the same duration in 31.8 °/oo sea water were significantly lower than the blood osmotic concentrations for alevins. It was included, therefore, that embryos and fry have greater salinity resistance than alevins because of the greater osmoregulatory ability of embryos and fry. On the basis of these results as well as information obtained from the literature, speculations were made on the phylogenetic relations within the genus Oncorhynchus.

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