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Physiological indices of seawater readiness in postspawning steelhead kelts

May 25, 2014

Management goals to improve the recovery of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) stocks at risk of extinction include increasing the proportion of postspawning fish that survive and spawn again. To be successful, postspawning steelhead (kelts) migrating downstream to the ocean must prepare physiologically and physically for a seawater transition. We sampled blood, gill filaments, and evaluated the external condition of migrating kelts from an ESA-listed population in the Snake/Columbia River system over two consecutive years to evaluate their physiological readiness for transition to seawater. We chose attributes often considered as measures of preparation for seawater in juveniles, including gill Na+,K+ ATPase activity, plasma electrolytes and hormones to consider factors related to external condition, size and sex. We found kelts in good external condition had plasma profiles similar to downstream-migrating smolts. In addition, we found more than 80% of kelts ranked in good external condition had smolt-like body silvering. We compared measures from migrating kelts with samples obtained from hatchery fish at the time of spawning to confirm that Na+, K+ ATPase activity in kelts was significantly elevated over spawning fish. We found significant differences in gill Na+, K+ ATPase activity in migrating kelts between the years of sampling, but little indication of influence of fish condition. We conclude that the postspawning steelhead sampled exhibited a suite of behaviours, condition and physiology characteristic of fish prepared for successful transition to a seawater environment.

Publication Year 2015
Title Physiological indices of seawater readiness in postspawning steelhead kelts
DOI 10.1111/eff.12130
Authors Jessica Buelow, Christine M. Moffitt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology of Freshwater Fish
Index ID 70074122
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit