To determine the effect of development and environment on fin growth, we measured fin lengths of juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) from two hatcheries (August, October and April-May), stream-reared fish (July and October) stocked as fry into two tributaries, and smelts from the main stem of the Connecticut River (May). For stream-reared parr, there was a linear relationship between the dorsal, caudal and anal fins with fork length, while the pectoral, pelvic and adipose fins exhibited a curvilinear relationship with fork length. Parr from a high gradient stream had larger caudal fins than fish from a low gradient stream, but other fins did not differ. Regression lines for the fins of stream-reared smelts were all linear when fin length was regressed against fork length. Stream-reared parr had larger pectoral, pelvic and anal fins than smolts of similar size while dorsal and caudal fin lengths did not differ. Regression equations formulated using the fins of stream-reared parr were used to calculate the percent difference (100 x observed fin length/expected) in fin lengths between stream- and hatchery-reared parr. The pelvic, adipose, caudal and anal fins of hatchery-reared parr showed no signs of degeneration by the first sampling period 7 months after hatching, whereas degeneration in the pectoral (13-20%) and dorsal (15-18%) fins was evident at this time. By the end of the study, degeneration was present in every fin except the adipose, with the pectoral (35-65%) and dorsal (32-58%) fins exhibiting the greatest amount of fin loss. All fins of hatchery-reared parr became shorter with time. There were minor differences in fin degeneration among parr from the two hatcheries, but the overall pattern of decreasing fin size was similar, indicating a common cause of fin degeneration. Comparison of stream- and hatchery-reared fish is a valuable means of determining the impact of captive environments on fin growth.
Additional publication details
Fin development in stream- and hatchery-reared Atlantic salmon