If and when: intrinsic differences and environmental stressors influence migration in brown trout (Salmo trutta)

Abstract

Partial migration is a common phenomenon, yet the causes of individual differences in migratory propensity are not well understood. We examined factors that potentially influence timing of migration and migratory propensity in a wild population of juvenile brown trout (Salmo trutta) by combining experimental manipulations with passive integrated transponder telemetry. Individuals were subjected to one of six manipulations: three designed to mimic natural stressors (temperature increase, food deprivation, and chase by a simulated predator), an injection of exogenous cortisol designed to mimic an extreme physiological challenge, a sham injection, and a control group. By measuring length and mass of 923 individuals prior to manipulation and by monitoring tagged individuals as they left the stream months later, we assessed whether pre-existing differences influenced migratory tendency and timing of migration, and whether our manipulations affected growth, condition, and timing of migration. We found that pre-existing differences predicted migration, with smaller individuals and individuals in poor condition having a higher propensity to migrate. Exogenous cortisol manipulation had the largest negative effect on growth and condition, and resulted in an earlier migration date. Additionally, low-growth individuals within the temperature and food deprivation treatments migrated earlier. By demonstrating that both pre-existing differences in organism state and additional stressors can affect whether and when individuals migrate, we highlight the importance of understanding individual differences in partial migration. These effects may carry over to influence migration success and affect the evolutionary dynamics of sub-populations experiencing different levels of stress, which is particularly relevant in a changing world.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was made possible through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada Discovery Grant and NSERC E. W. R. Steacie Fellowship awarded to S.J.C., the Canada Research Chairs program, grants from the Danish National Fishing License Funds to the Technical University of Denmark, and the Swedish Research Council Formas. The authors thank Ana Silva, Michael Holm, Hans-Jørn Christensen, Henrik Baktoft, Jørgen Skole Mikkelsen, Jes Dolby, and Morten Carøe for assistance in the field and technical support.

Author contribution statement

JDM, ADMW, KA, and SJC conceived and designed the experiments. JDM, MHL and ADMW performed the experiments. KSP and KB-G analyzed the data. KSP and KB-G wrote the manuscript; other authors provided editorial advice.

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Correspondence to Kathryn S. Peiman.

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All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. Methods were approved by Carleton University (Protocol Number 315774) and the Danish Technical University (protocol number: 2013-15-2934-00808).

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Communicated by Aaron J. Wirsing.

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Peiman, K.S., Birnie-Gauvin, K., Midwood, J.D. et al. If and when: intrinsic differences and environmental stressors influence migration in brown trout (Salmo trutta). Oecologia 184, 375–384 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-017-3873-9

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Keywords

  • Partial migration
  • Brown trout
  • Cortisol
  • Passive integrated transponder
  • Life-history strategy