Food consumption and growth in maturing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

S M Stead, D F Houlihan, H A McLay, R Johnstone

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Circulating levels of the steroid hormones 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) and 17 beta-estradiol (E2), voluntary food intake, and growth performance were measured in individual Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) over the year preceding their maturation as grilse. 11-KT and E2 were measured by radioimmunoassay, and X-radiography was used to measure food consumption rates. Two phases of sexual maturation were identified: the early phase (October 1992 - April 1993) was characterized by slowly rising steroid hormone levels concomitant with relatively high rates of food consumption and growth, and in the late phase (May-October 1993), steroid hormone levels increased more rapidly and growth rates decreased in association with inappetence. Significant linear relationships were observed between food consumption and specific growth rates of fish throughout the study (ANCOVA, p < 0.05). Slopes and intercepts of regressions were similar for fish during early maturation, while a lower intercept and steeper slope (ANCOVA, p < 0.05) was observed during the later stages of maturation. In November, January, February, and April, fish in which steroid hormone levels were elevated were significantly heavier than those in which hormone levels were basal. There were no significant differences in specific growth rates (except in February), food consumption, or weight-specific food conversion ratio (except in August and October) associated with maturation status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2019-2028
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1999



Cite this

Stead, S. M., Houlihan, D. F., McLay, H. A., & Johnstone, R. (1999). Food consumption and growth in maturing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 56, 2019-2028.