No Evidence for Long-Term Carryover Effects in a Wild Salmonid Fish
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Early-life experiences can shape life histories and population dynamics of wild animals. To examine whether stressful stimuli experienced in early life resulted in carryover effects in later life stages, we conducted several experimental manipulations and then monitored wild fish with passive integrated transponder tags during juvenile out-migration and adult return migration. In total, 3,217 juvenile brown trout (Salmo trutta) were subjected to one of six manipulations: chase to exhaustion, thermal challenge, food deprivation, low-concentration cortisol injection, high-concentration cortisol injection, and sham injection, plus a control group. Cortisol and food deprivation treatments were previously shown to have short-term effects on juveniles, such as lower survival to out-migration and changes in migration timing. However, it remained unknown whether any of the six manipulations had effects that carried over into the adult phase. We therefore investigated whether these extrinsic manipulations, as well as intrinsic factors (size and condition), affected probability of return as adults and time spent at sea. Of the 1,273 fish that out-migrated, 146 returned as adults. We failed to detect any effect of treatments on return rates, while high-concentration cortisol weakly affected time spent at sea in one tagging event. We also found that juvenile condition was positively correlated to likelihood of adult return in only one tagging event. Overall, our findings did not identify either intrinsic factors or extrinsic stressful early-life experiences that have strong effects on fish that survive to adulthood. This suggests that some species may be more resilient than others to stressful stimuli encountered early in life.
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