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Temperature-related loss of smolt characteristics in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the wild

McCormick, Stephen D, Cunjak, Richard A, Dempson, Brian, O'Dea, Michael F, Carey, Judith B
Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 1999 v.56 no.9 pp. 1649-1667
Salmo salar, heat sums, migratory behavior, rivers, salt tolerance, seawater, smolts, sodium-potassium-exchanging ATPase, spring, temperature, Connecticut River, Maine, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) that had previously been released as fry in tributaries of the Connecticut River were captured from 1993 to 1997 during their normal spring smolt migration 198 km from the mouth of the river. Smolts had peak levels of gill Na⁺,K⁺-ATPase activity and salinity tolerance early in migration (early May), indicating physiological readiness to enter seawater. Significant decreases in gill Na⁺,K⁺-ATPase activity (29-66%) and salinity tolerance were seen in smolts at the end of the migratory period (late May and early June). Reduced gill Na⁺,K⁺-ATPase activity occurred earlier in warm years and was directly related to the degree-days during migration (r² = 0.75). Reduced gill Na⁺,K⁺-ATPase activity was found at the end of migration in warmer, southern rivers (Connecticut River and Penobscot River, Maine) but not in northern rivers (Catamaran Brook, New Brunswick, and Conne River, Newfoundland). Both hatchery- and stream-reared fish held in the laboratory exhibited a more rapid loss of physiological smolt characteristics when held at higher temperature. The results indicate that late migrants in southern rivers lose physiological smolt characteristics due to high temperatures during spring migration. Delays in migration, such as those that occur at dams, may have negative impacts on smolt survival in warmer rivers.