Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 369-375

First online:

Factors affecting the duration of nest defense and reproductive lifespan of female sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka

  • Megan V. McPheeAffiliated withSchool of Fisheries, University of Washington
  • , Thomas P. QuinnAffiliated withSchool of Fisheries, University of Washington

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Reproductive success of female animals is often affected by a combination of fecundity and parental care. In female salmonid fishes, acquisition of nest (redd) sites and prevention of their use by other females are critical to reproductive success. These factors are particularly important for stocks that spawn at high densities. Body size is positively correlated with fecundity and egg size, and has been hypothesized to control the outcome of intrasexual competition and longevity. We tested this hypothesis by evaluating the influences of body size, intrasexual aggression and arrival date on duration and success of redd guarding by female sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, in a small Alaskan creek. Contrary to the hypothesis, larger females guarded their redds no longer than smaller females, and did not live as long in the stream. Aggression was not related to body size or overall longevity but was positively correlated with residence period on the redd. Females that entered the creek earlier lived longer, spent longer on their redds, and spent more time guarding their redds after spawning than females that entered the creek later. However, despite their longevity, early-arriving fish were more likely to have their redds reused by another female because they died before all the females had selected redd sites. The small average body size in this stock is consistent with weak selection for large size, and with our evidence that size provided little if any advantage in nest guarding.

fish longevity parental care salmonid mating systems