Ontogenetic divergence of growth among rainbow smelt morphotypes



Multiple, sympatric morphotypes of rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) are known in Lake Utopia, New Brunswick. The largest, ‘giant’ form is predominantly a piscivore, the smaller, ‘dwarf’ form are predominantly planktivores, and there is an intermediate body-sized form. The forms exhibit some genetic variability, but it is body size that best defines morphotypes, trophic status, and spawning behaviour. We compared egg size, spawning date, incubation time, size at hatching, and daily and annual growth to determine when divergence in body size occurs among morphotypes. Giant form larvae hatched earlier and grew faster during their first year. Dwarf and intermediate form larvae displayed inter-annual variability in degree of overlap and divergence in growth which occurred in their first growing season or at age 1+ or 2+. We conclude that earlier hatching, early growth trajectories, and later niche shifting are linked to the persistence of morphotypes, i.e., the process is controlled by the environment and sustained to some degree by spawning segregation.


Osmerus Morphotypes Eggs Larvae Juvenile Phenotypic plasticity Niche shift 



Support for this work was provided by S. Currie, P. Seymour, and P. Cronin of the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, and R. Bradford, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Staff at the St. Andrews Biological Station, Marine Fish Division of Fisheries and Oceans Canada provided equipment and laboratory support for otolith microstructure procedures. Reviews by R. Bradford, A. Valois, and several anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript. We thank H. Boyd-Kinnie, M. Chiasson, E. Kitts, C. Doherty and M. Gautreau for their valuable help in the field and laboratory.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canadian Rivers Institute, Department of Biology and Faculty of Forestry and Environmental ManagementUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Fish Population Science, Ecosystem Science DirectorateFisheries and Oceans CanadaOttawaCanada

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