Life history theory predicts a trade‐off between migration and residency where migration is favoured when it infers elevated fitness. Although migration to more favourable environments may offer higher growth rates, migrants often experience increased mortality due to predation. Here, we investigated mortality and migration behaviour of the North Sea houting (Coregonus oxyrinchus), an anadromous salmonid endemic to the Wadden Sea. We used acoustic telemetry to map the migration of the only remaining indigenous population by applying stationary hydrophones combined with manual tracking. Data suggested a total mortality of 26%, with 30% of the total mortality attributed to predation by great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis), highlighting that North Sea houting conservation could be jeopardised by increased cormorant predation. Risk of cormorant predation was size‐dependent, with smaller fish suffering higher risk of predation. The study found North Sea houting to exhibit disparate migration strategies and identified a lentic area in the estuary as an important habitat. Two newly established artificial lakes within the river system significantly reduced the migration speeds, possibly indicating constrained navigation through the lakes. The migration into the Wadden Sea correlated with temperature perhaps indicating osmoregulatory constraints of sea entry. Unlike many salmonid species, migration occurred both day and night. Moreover, fish exhibited repeatable individual differences in diel activity patterns, suggesting that individuals differ consistently in their migratory activity throughout the 24‐hr period. Our study provides novel information on salmonid migration, which is crucial for the development of science‐based conservation strategies.
Ecology of Freshwater Fish – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ;
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