Main content area

Effects of experimentally elevated egg cortisol on offspring traits in two species of wild Pacific salmon

Sopinka, Natalie M., Hinch, Scott G., Healy, Stephen J., Raby, Graham D., Patterson, David A.
Environmental biology of fishes 2016 v.99 no.10 pp. 717-728
Oncorhynchus keta, Oncorhynchus nerka, absorption, cortisol, egg composition, eggs, eyes, fins, phenotype, progeny, rearing, salmon, swimming, yolk sac
In fishes, elevated levels of cortisol in eggs can have carry-over effects on phenotypic and performance traits early in life. How responses to elevations in egg cortisol differ among species remains poorly understood. Using wild populations of chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) and sockeye salmon (O. nerka), we investigated whether experimentally-elevated concentrations of cortisol in newly fertilized eggs had effects on offspring morphology and/or burst swimming capacity. Immediately following fertilization, eggs were incubated for 2 h with water dosed with 0 ng/mL or 1000 ng/mL of cortisol. Embryos were reared to the fry life stage (complete yolk sac absorption). Morphology and burst swimming performance of fry were then assessed. Sockeye salmon fry reared from cortisol-treated eggs were smaller overall (i.e., smaller body, fins and eyes) compared to conspecifics reared from untreated eggs. In contrast, the morphology of chum salmon fry was not affected by the experimental elevation of egg cortisol. In both species, burst swimming duration was unaffected by egg cortisol treatment, while offspring reared from the cortisol-treated eggs initiated fewer bouts of burst swimming. Our results demonstrate that closely-related species can respond differently to elevations in egg cortisol, and not all offspring traits may be affected by these elevations in cortisol. Further efforts to establish links among offspring quality, maternal stress, and egg composition need to consider the potential for divergent responses among species and examine multiple measures of phenotype and performance throughout development.