New publication: Frequency of vateritic otoliths and potential consequences for marine survival in hatchery‐reared Atlantic salmon

By Benedikte Austad, L. Asbjørn Vøllestad, and Anders Foldvik in Journal of Fish Biology.


Otoliths are inner‐ear structures of all teleost fish with functional importance for hearing and balance. The otoliths usually consist of aragonite, a polymorph of calcium carbonate, but may also take the form partly or entirely of vaterite, a different polymorph of calcium carbonate. Vateritic otoliths occur sporadically in wild fish, but with a higher frequency in hatchery‐reared fish. Abnormal otoliths have direct consequences for the inner‐ear functions of fish, and may be a symptom of environmental stress. Here, we assess differences in frequency of abnormal otoliths and degree of abnormality (% vaterite) for different groups of hatchery‐reared Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) smolt and adults. The groups differed in parental brood‐stock origin (number of generations in hatchery) and treatment temperature. Smolt from the same groups were also released to complete their ocean migration. The otoliths of the returning and recaptured adults were subsequently extracted, in order to assess the difference in frequency and degree of abnormality between the adults and the smolt from corresponding groups. Return rate varied among groups (0.2 – 2.6%). The frequency of vateritic otoliths was high (11.4‐64.4%), and differed among smolt groups. The lowest return rates corresponded with the highest frequency of abnormal otoliths for the groups, suggesting that abnormal otoliths may have negative consequences for marine survival. Furthermore, indications of an effect of fast growth on the formation of abnormal otoliths was found for only one of the experimental groups; for none of the groups after correcting for Type 1 error. This contradicts previous reports suggesting rapid growth as the main cause of abnormal otoliths. Adult return rates were generally low, but abnormal otoliths were common, with high coverage (% vaterite).

Journal of Fish Biology
First published: 22 January 2021
DOI: 10.1111/jfb.14683
Publication webpage.

Benedikte Austad1L. Asbjørn Vøllestad1, and Anders Foldvik2.

1 Center for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P. O. Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316, Norway

2 Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Høgskoleringen 9, N7034 Trondheim, Norway

Tags: Journal of Fish Biology;
Published Jan. 26, 2021 9:56 AM - Last modified Mar. 5, 2021 9:26 AM