Lake trout Salvelinus namaycush in the Laurentian Great Lakes suffer from thiamine deficiency as a result of adult lake trout consuming prey containing thiaminase, a thiamine-degrading enzyme. Sufficiently low egg thiamine concentrations result in direct mortality of or sublethal effects on newly hatched lake trout fry. To determine the prevalence and severity of low thiamine in lake trout eggs, we monitored thiamine concentrations in lake trout eggs from 15 sites in Lakes Huron and Michigan from 2001 to 2009. Lake trout egg thiamine concentrations at most sites in both lakes were initially low and increased over time at 11 of 15 sites, and the proportion of females with egg thiamine concentrations lower than the recommended management objective of 4 nmol/g decreased over time at eight sites. Egg thiamine concentrations at five of six sites in Lakes Huron and Michigan were significantly inversely related to site-specific estimates of mean abundance of alewives Alosa pseudoharengus, and successful natural reproduction of lake trout has been observed in Lake Huron since the alewife population crashed. These results support the hypothesis that low egg thiamine in Great Lakes lake trout is associated with increased alewife abundance and that low alewife abundance may currently be a prerequisite for successful reproduction by lake trout in the Great Lakes.
Additional publication details
Increasing thiamine concentrations in lake trout eggs from Lakes Huron and Michigan coincide with low alewife abundance