Larval sea lampreys Petromyzon marinus begin to metamorphose into their parasitic phase in July and migrate to the Great Lakes either in autumn, when they immediately feed on fish, or in spring after overwintering in the stream substrate. Survival and growth of newly parasitic autumn migrants (mean weight, 4.18 g) differed significantly between temperature treatments when sea lampreys were held over winter and allowed to feed on longnose suckers Catostomus catostomus at either the maximum available temperature (~4A?C) or normal surface temperature (minimum <1A?C) in the Great Lakes during winter. Survival from December 1990 to June 1991 was 60% for the animals held in the warmer water but only 30% for the animals held in the colder water until 23 April. The average increase in weight was 8.23 g for the 35 survivors in the warmer water but only 5.15 g for the 17 survivors in the colder water. Average increases in weight from December to May for sea lampreys at both temperatures were 3.8 to 6.6 times greater than increases reported previously. A newly metamorphosed sea lamprey that migrates to the Great Lakes in autumn could be 2.5 to 3 times larger in June than one that overwinters in the stream substrate, where it cannot feed, and migrates in spring. Hence, autumn migrants may have an advantage in growth and survival over spring migrants, particularly if food supply is adequate in the warmest stratum of the lake during winter.
Additional publication details
Growth and survival of newly parasitic sea lampreys at representative winter temperatures