, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 163-174
Date: 27 Jul 2005

The Effect of Photoperiod on Sexual Maturation, Appetite and Growth in Wild Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua L.)

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An experiment was conducted to examine (a) the effects of photoperiod on timing of sexual maturation (b) the relationship between plasma steroid levels, appetite and growth in male and female Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.). Wild caught Norwegian coastal cod were subjected to either a 6L/18D photoperiod typical of January at 60° N-(Short day group) or a simulated natural photoperiod (Normal day group) from June 2000 until spawning started. Appetite of individual fish were measured twice weekly, while weight, length and plasma levels of the sex steroids testosterone (T), 11 keto-testosterone (11-KT) and estradiol-17β (E2) were monitored bimonthly. Cod in the Short day group matured 3 months ahead of the cod in the Normal day group and started spawning in early November. Appetite decreased in both sexes 2–3 months prior to spawning in both groups, but this reduction was stronger among males. In both sexes, length growth was reduced concurrently with the appetite loss. Overall, females had significantly higher somatic growth, put relatively less energy into length growth and had developed larger livers compared to males at the time of spawning in the Short day group. Plasma steroid levels increased in both groups throughout the experiment, reaching peak levels of ca 10 ng  ml−1 (T) and 15–20 ng  ml−1 (11-KT) in males, and 1.5–2 ng  ml−1 (T) and 12–18 ng  ml−1 (E2) in females at the onset of spawning. Steroid levels increased more rapidly among Short day cod verifying the earlier onset of maturation. These results confirm that photoperiod is a major cue to maturation in cod and imply that the high cost of spawning for females incur differences in appetite between the sexes.