Environmental calcium and variation in yolk sac size influence swimming performance in larval lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)

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In many animal species, performance in the early life stages strongly affects recruitment to the adult population; however, factors that influence early life history stages are often the least understood. This is particularly relevant for lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens, living in areas where environmental calcium concentrations are declining, partly due to anthropogenic activity. As calcium is important for muscle contraction and fatigue resistance, declining calcium levels could constrain swimming performance. Similarly, swimming performance could be influenced by variation in yolk sac volume, because the yolk sac is likely to affect drag forces during swimming. Testing swimming performance of larval A. fulvescens reared in four different calcium treatments spanning the range of 4-132 mg l-1 [Ca2+], this study found no treatment effects on the sprint swimming speed. A novel test of volitional swimming performance, however, revealed reduced swimming performance in the low calcium environment. Specifically, volitionally swimming larvae covered a shorter distance before swimming cessation in the low calcium environment compared to the other treatments. Moreover, sprint swimming speed in larvae with a large yolk sac was significantly slower than in larvae with a small yolk sac, regardless of body length variation. Thus, elevated maternal allocation (i.e., more yolk) was associated with reduced swimming performance. Data suggest that larvae in low calcium environments or with a large yolk sac exhibit reduced swimming performance and could be more susceptible to predation or premature downstream drift. Our study reveals how environmental factors and phenotypic variation influence locomotor performance in a larval fish.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb.164533
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: No match on DOI

    Research areas

  • Life history traits, Maternal allocation, Recruitment, Swimming performance, Volitional swimming test

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