Secondary sexual characters, energy use, senescence, and the cost of reproduction in sockeye salmon

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Reproductive development and energy stores were characterized for sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) maturing in the wild (Pick Creek, Bristol Bay, Alaska). Between freshwater entry and the start of spawning, ovaries increased in mass by 87.1% and secondary sexual characters increased in linear dimension by 13.0-47.4%. Between the start of spawning and death, secondary sexual characters decreased in relative size by 3.3-12.7%. Mass-specific somatic energy declined from freshwater entry (6.7% fat, 20.6% protein, 6.6 kJ·g-1) to the start of spawning (1.6% fat, 18.0% protein, 4.5 kJ·g-1) and finally to death (0.1% fat, 14.4% protein, 2.9 kJ·g-1). Stored fat appeared to be used primarily for upriver migration and egg production, whereas stored protein appeared to be used primarily for the development of secondary sexual characters and metabolism during spawning. Most development of secondary sexual characters occurred late in maturation, perhaps to forestall deterioration of muscle tissue. Relative to populations with long freshwater migrations, Bristol Bay sockeye salmon stored less fat before entering fresh water and used less fat before death. The total energy cost of reproduction (freshwater entry until death, including gonad investment) was 74.1% for females and 66.1% for males, higher than levels typically reported for iteroparous salmonids.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1999

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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