In our 2-year laboratory study of hatchery-reared adult lake trout Salvelinus namaycush of the Seneca Lake, Marquette (Lake Superior Lean), and Jenny Lake strains, we compared gamete ripening times and changes in plasma concentrations of seven hormones. If interstrain differences in these traits were found, such differences might help explain the apparent failure of stocked fish of these strains to develop large, naturally reproducing populations in the Great Lakes. The complex temporal changes in plasma hormone levels that occur during sexual maturation in lake trout have not been previously described. We detected little evidence of temporal isolation that would prevent interbreeding among the three strains. Strain had no effect on ovulation date (OD) in either year. Strain did not affect spermiation onset date (SOD) in year 1 but did in year 2, when the mean SOD of Jenny Lake males was earlier than that of Seneca Lake males but not different from that of Marquette males. Hormonal data were normalized around ODs for individual females and SODs for individual males. In females, estradiol-17beta (E2) was highest 8 weeks before the OD; the highest testosterone (T) level occurred 6 weeks before the OD, and the next highest level occurred simultaneously with the highest level of 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) 2 weeks before the OD. Plasma levels of 17alpha-hydroxy-20beta-dihydroprogesterone (DHP) peaked 1 week before the OD, then abruptly declined immediately after. Cortisol (F), triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4) were highly variable, but F was the only hormone that showed no trend with week in either year. In males, plasma E2 levels were highest 3 weeks before the SOD, highest levels of T and of 11-KT occurred simultaneously 2 weeks after the SOD, and DHP peaked 5 weeks after the SOD and 3 weeks after the highest levels of T and 11-KT. As in females, plasma levels of F, T3, and T4 were highly variable, and F was the only hormone that showed no trend with week in either year. Strain had no effect on any hormones in females and only on T and F in males. The lack of pronounced interstrain differences in gamete ripening dates and reproductive endocrinology and the similarity of the temporal patterns and relative concentrations of hormones to those reported for other salmonids suggest nothing unusual or dysfunctional about these reproductive traits that would impede lake trout rehabilitation in the Great Lakes.
Additional publication details
Gamete ripening and hormonal correlates in three strains of lake trout