Can otolith microchemistry identify the natal origin of larval lake whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis in the waters of Green Bay?

Lydia R. Doerr, Christopher J. Houghton, Scott P. Hansen, Kevin L. Pangle, Andrew L. Ransom, Patrick S. Forsythe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Lake whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis play a key role in the socioeconomics of the Laurentian Great Lakes region and serve as an important conduit of energy among trophic levels. Lake wide declines in adult abundance creates the need for improved understanding of population dynamics, currently hampered by a lack of early life history information and resolution of subpopulation structure. We predicted that otolith microchemistry had the potential to broaden our understanding of lake whitefish ecology by determining the natal origin of larvae at a resolution (e.g., spawning location) unachievable with other techniques. To test this prediction, in 2017 and 2018, recently hatched, pelagically-drifting lake whitefish larvae were collected from the open waters of Green Bay, Lake Michigan and four large tributaries (Menominee, Fox, Oconto and Peshtigo Rivers), where spawning activity has been recently documented. Linear discriminant function analyses conducted at the broadest level of resolution (i.e., river vs. open-water origin) correctly assigned 80.5% and 75.0% of individuals to their natal location in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Reclassification success at a finer resolution (i.e., specific rivers) ranged from 75.9% in 2017 to 42.1% in 2018. We discuss these promising results with respect to underlying variation in geological features, water chemistry and interannual river conditions that eggs and larvae experience during incubation and before prolonged drift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1771-1780
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Volume47
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Fish larvae
  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake whitefish
  • Natal origins
  • Otolith microchemistry

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