INTERNATIONAL PIKE SYMPOSIUM

Hydrobiologia

, Volume 601, Issue 1, pp 71-82

The effect of egg size and nutrient content on larval performance: implications to protracted spawning in northern pike (Esox lucius Linnaeus)

  • Brent A. MurryAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and ForestryDepartment of Biology, Central Michigan University Email author 
  • , John M. FarrellAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  • , Kimberly L. SchulzAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  • , Mark A. TeeceAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Jahn Laboratory, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry

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Abstract

Variation in developmental rate from fertilization to swim-up, and body size at swim-up, may affect the growth and survival of young-of-the-year fish. Fish egg size (diameter) is often positively correlated to adult female size, but whether increased egg size equates to higher egg nutrient content and subsequently improved embryo/larval performance, remains unclear. Artificially fertilized northern pike eggs from individual females (total length 400–800 mm) were cultured under temperature controlled laboratory conditions to test the hypothesis that female body size positively influences egg size and the amount of specific nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and fatty acids) allocated to eggs. We further hypothesized that greater egg nutrient content would positively influence egg survival, developmental rate, and the size of swim-up fry. These hypotheses were investigated in the context of two different northern pike spawning strategies (early season tributary vs. late season deep shoal spawning). Nutrients were allocated conservatively in northern pike eggs, showing very little variation in nutrient concentrations, but the total mass of all egg nutrients increased linearly with egg dry mass. Neither egg dry mass nor nutrient content (concentration or mass), were related to either egg diameter or female body size. The mass of individual egg nutrients was, however, strongly correlated with egg dry mass (r 2 range 0.62 to 0.99 for individual nutrients) and positively related to the total length of swim-up fry (r 2 = 0.58). The eggs of late spawning pike had significantly greater dry mass (average = 3.02 mg/egg) and developed more rapidly to swim-up (average = 17.89 days) than did those of early spawners (average = 2.28 mg/egg, 19.05 days). Our results indicate that egg quality may be best assessed by egg dry mass, which was correlated with greater nutrient mass and increased swim-up fry body length, as opposed to egg diameter or female body size which showed no correlation to egg nutrient composition and egg/larval performance.

Keywords

Early life history Development Stoichiometry Fatty acids