The goal of this study was to test the relative effectiveness of morphological measurements and body size in predicting the smolt age of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and to determine the time course of body size and shape differences between smolt ages. Analyses were conducted on age-0 to age-2 fish that were stocked as fry in the West Brook, Massachusetts and on laboratory-raised age-0 to age-1 fish. Using both body size and shape, we could partition the age-0 fish collected during fall into future early or late smolts, although the predictive ability of body shape was somewhat weaker than that of body size, especially in the laboratory. Classification success averaged 81% (size) and 79% (shape) in the field and 85% (size) and 73% (shape) in the laboratory. Despite differences in smolt age between the field and the laboratory, the relative timing of growth rate differences between future early and late smolts was similar in the field and the laboratory and peaked at 50-60% of development from fry to smolt. While body shape differed between early and late smolts well before smoltification, it did not improve classification based on size alone.
Additional publication details
Early discrimination of Atlantic salmon smolt age: Time course of the relative effectiveness of body size and shape