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The role of progeny quality and male size in the nesting success of smallmouth bass: integrating field and laboratory studies

Gingerich, Andrew J., Suski, Cory D.
Aquatic ecology 2011 v.45 no.4 pp. 505-515
Micropterus dolomieu, cortisol, eggs, hatching, males, mortality, nesting, progeny, rearing, spawning
Smallmouth bass display size-specific variation in reproductive success with larger brood-guarding males in a population more likely to rear offspring to independence than smaller individuals. The exact mechanisms responsible for this size-specific increase in reproductive output have yet to be identified. To assist in this process, we investigated the relationship between the size of brood-guarding male smallmouth bass and offspring quality (in this case, egg physiology, egg morphology, egg size, hatching success and lab survival). Further, we examined how factors such as egg physiology, egg morphology and egg size influenced reproductive success in the wild and hatching success in a controlled laboratory environment. Nesting male smallmouth bass that successfully reared their offspring to independence spawned earliest in the nesting period were the largest individuals, and guarded eggs with greater concentrations of cortisol compared to males that abandoned their offspring prematurely. Offspring survival in the laboratory was not correlated with offspring survival in the wild, indicating that caution should be used interpreting studies that attempt to relate laboratory-derived survival metrics to the wild. Together, results demonstrate size-specific differences in offspring quality for nesting smallmouth bass, which are correlated with higher concentrations of cortisol in eggs. However, hatching success under laboratory conditions was dissimilar to nesting success in the field relative to cortisol concentrations.