Population variation in the life history traits and thermal responses of Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua L.

Perutz, Marion (2007) Population variation in the life history traits and thermal responses of Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua L. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2622335


Studies of the phenotypes of animals at different parts of their geographic range often reveal striking variability. It is of considerable fundamental and applied interest to discover the extent to which such variation depends on genetic as opposed to environmental differences. A first step towards disentangling these effects is to use an empirical approach known as the common environment method in which wild-caught juveniles from different regions are reared under common laboratory conditions. I used this approach to determine the population and thermal responses of Atlantic cod, a species with a wide distribution and geographic variation in life history traits.

Life history traits were investigated in cod from three areas around the British Isles of differing thermal regimes, namely St Andrews Bay on the Scottish east coast, the Clyde Sea on the Scottish west coast, and from near Lowestoft in the southern North Sea. Concurrently haemoglobin genotype and behaviour were also studied.

Spatially significant differences in life history traits and thermal responses were revealed in juvenile and adult growth rate, gonadal investment and behaviour, suggestive of population differentiation. Behavioural differences between cod of differing haemoglobin genotypes were also demonstrated.

Results suggested that juvenile growth rates may be modified by competitive interactions. At a group level, growth rate of cod from the Clyde Sea was suppressed in the presence of cod from St Andrews Bay. Pairwise trials demonstrated that cod from the Clyde Sea consumed a higher prey share than those from St Andrews Bay but that those from St Andrews Bay were more aggressive and thus could potentially restrict feeding of cod from the Clyde Sea, resulting in a reduced growth rate.

There were no population differences in the distribution of haemoglobin genotype, but haemoglobin genotype did have a strong influence on behaviour in pairwise contests. Cod of the HbI-2*2 genotype displayed a higher level of aggression than other genotypes and this effect was stronger than the population difference.

Juvenile cod from the Clyde Sea exhibited a growth rate 24 % higher than those from St Andrews Bay. Cod from the Clyde Sea and from Lowestoft expressed higher growth rates as adults than those from St Andrews Bay. Body size and thus growth appeared to be the main driver of fecundity in the females and body size and liver were the main influences on gonadosomatic index (GSI) in the males. Females from the Clyde Sea invested more into fecundity than those from St Andrews Bay and males from St Andrews Bay had a higher testis investment than those from the Clyde Sea and Lowestoft.

Temperature had a large influence on both the juvenile growth and egg development. Growth rate increased linearly and in parallel over the experimental temperatures, within their normal range. Egg development was strongly affected by temperature, resulting in a decrease in hatch time and an increase in embryonic cardiac rate, and a smaller larval size at hatch for a given temperature at higher temperatures. Temperature did not directly influence fecundity or GSI in males but warmer temperatures resulted in higher growth rates and thus a larger body size, which in turn resulted in a greater fecundity or GSI.

These differences in life history traits, demonstrated under controlled environment conditions, raises the possibility that there may be a genetic basis to the variation and that cod may be locally adapted to their thermal environments in areas around the British Isles. However, effects of environmental differences prior to capture, including maternal effects, cannot be ruled out.

This greater understanding of life history variation in cod will be important in the conservation of phenotypic diversity, vital for the long-term persistence of the species, while the findings of plasticity in response to temperature will enhance predictions of responses to sea temperature rise.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: life history, phenotypic plasticity, population structure, temperature adaptation, behaviour, competition, feeding, aggression, growth, maturation, fecundity, egg development, haemoglobin genotype, ecology
Subjects: S Agriculture > SH Aquaculture. Fisheries. Angling
Q Science > QL Zoology
Q Science > QH Natural history
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Neat, Dr Francis C and Wright, Dr Peter J and Huntingford, Professor Felicity A
Date of Award: 2007
Depositing User: Dr Marion Perutz
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-112
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:15
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/112

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