Biology of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) spawning below a dam on the Richelieu River, Quebec: behaviour, egg deposition, and endocrinology

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Abstract:

Knowledge of the reproductive biology of wild sturgeon populations is critical to ensure the survival of this unique group of animals. We combined gill-netting surveys, nonlethal blood sampling, radiotelemetry, and egg collection to examine the reproductive biology of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens Rafinesque, 1817) at a suspected spawning ground below a dam on the Richelieu River, Quebec. Lake sturgeon were present at the beginning of sampling in early May, and spawning took place from 26 May to 5 June when water temperature averaged 13.4 ± 0.1 °C (range 11.5–15.5 °C). Daily spawning population estimates ranged from 285 to 1282 individuals and the sex ratio of spawners was estimated at 2.1 males per female. The presence of radio-tagged individuals on the spawning grounds peaked from 20 to 28 May, corresponding with known spawning bouts. Residence time of spawners on the spawning ground ranged from 1 to 27 days (median = 5 days) and there were no differences in residence time between sexes. Nonlethal blood sampling enabled the quantification of steroid levels to determine the spawning population sex ratio, and steroid levels were highest before spawning was known to occur and decreased concurrently with, and after, known spawning events.

Keywords: Acipenser fulvescens; biologie de la reproduction; esturgeon jaune; frai; lake sturgeon; reproductive biology; reproductive steroids; spawning; stéroïdes sexuels; telemetry; télémétrie

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjz-2012-0298

Affiliations: 1: Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada. 2: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, 201 Place Charles Le Moyne, 4e étage, bureau 4.05, Longueuil, QC J4K 2T5, Canada. 3: Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada. 4: Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada; Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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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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