Temporal Constraints on the Potential Role of Fry Odors as Cues of Past Reproductive Success for Spawning Lake Trout
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Deciding where to reproduce is a major challenge for most animals. Many select habitats based upon cues of successful reproduction by conspecifics, such as the presence of offspring from past reproductive events. For example, some fishes select spawning habitat following odors released by juveniles whose rearing habitat overlaps with spawning habitat. However, juveniles may emigrate before adults begin to search for spawning habitat; hence, the efficacy of juvenile cues could be constrained by degradation or dissipation rates. In lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), odors deposited by the previous year's offspring have been hypothesized to guide adults to spawning reefs. However, in most extant populations, lake trout fry emigrate from spawning reefs during the spring and adults spawn during the fall. Therefore, we postulated that the role of fry odors in guiding habitat selection might be constrained by the time between fry emigration and adult spawning. Time course chemical, physiological, and behavioral assays indicated that the odors deposited by fry likely degrade or dissipate before adults select spawning habitats. Furthermore, fry feces did not attract wild lake trout to constructed spawning reefs in Lake Huron. Taken together, our results indicate fry odors are unlikely to act as cues for lake trout searching for spawning reefs in populations whose juveniles emigrate before the spawning season, and underscore the importance of environmental constraints on social cues.