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Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1989 Feb 22;236(1282):7-19.

Early social status and the development of life-history strategies in Atlantic salmon.

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Department of Zoology, Glasgow University, U.K.


Atlantic salmon have a variable life cycle. In good growing conditions, underyearling fish may metamorphose into the migratory smolt phase during their second spring, or delay at least a further year. The strategy adopted by particular fish appears to become fixed during their first summer. This paper examines whether either feeding efficiency or dominance in mid-summer correlates with the life-history strategy adopted. Eighty fish were individually marked and their feeding efficiency (= mean handling time for food items) and dominance rank measured under laboratory conditions in mid-July. Growth rates of the fish were then monitored over the next three months, until developmental strategies became apparent. Discriminant and logistic regression analyses revealed that both dominance rank and size attained by July were independent, significant predictors of future developmental pattern (the age at metamorphosis being correctly predicted on the basis of rank and size in 84% of cases) whereas feeding efficiency had no effect. Thus fish that were dominant or larger two months after first feeding or both had a greater probability of migrating after only one year in freshwater than those more subordinate or smaller or both.

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