Effects of reproductive timing and hatch date on fathead minnow recruitment


J. N. Divino and W. M. Tonn


Ecology of Freshwater Fish 16(2): 165-176; 2007


 Timing of reproduction can be an important determinant of recruitment success for fish in strongly seasonal environments, both for individuals hatching at different times over extended spawning seasons and for entire cohorts, if the spawning period is accelerated or delayed among years. To examine potential demographic consequences of delayed spawning, we staggered dates that fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) were introduced into experimental ponds in Alberta, Canada, by 3 weeks and compared growth and survival of offspring from early- and late-stocked fish. By autumn, size and mass were consistently greater in early-hatched minnows, regardless of cohort density. Size differences between treatments persisted through the second summer, which likely contributed to a higher proportion of early-hatched fish reaching sexual maturity as yearlings compared with late-hatched counterparts. Because late spawning can limit growth and subsequent maturation of progeny, temporal variability in reproductive timing should be considered when assessing recruitment potential of new year-classes.