First-Year Recruitment of Largemouth Bass: The Interdependency of Early Life Stages
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Citation:Ludsin, Stuart A.; DeVries, Dennis R. "First-Year Recruitment of Largemouth Bass: The Interdependency of Early Life Stages," Ecological Applications, v. 7, no. 3, 1997, pp. 1024-1038.
Four early life events (i.e., hatching, the ontogenetic diet shift to piscivory, fall lipid accumulation, and the first winter) are conceptualized as being critical to 1st-yr recruitment success of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) via cause-and-effect associations among them. Toward this end, we conducted a multiple life-stage investigation of largemouth bass to examine the functional dependency and significance to recruitment of these temporally separated early life events. Specifically, we quantified growth and survival of two largemouth bass year-classes in six Alabama ponds from hatching to the end of the first winter. The first winter was an important survival bottleneck with lower largemouth bass survival in ponds with smaller largemouth bass (high-density ponds), relative to ponds with larger fish (low-density ponds). While cannibalism was not important, we found sizedependent first-winter mortality to be regulated directly by lipid reserves (i.e., triglycerides) accumulated during fall, and indirectly by both hatch date and the ontogenetic diet shift to piscivory during summer. Early-hatched largemouth bass attained an initial length advantage, remaining large relative to late-hatched fish, despite the relatively higher growth rate of late-hatched fish during their first month of life. Enhanced size permitted earlyhatched fish to become piscivorous before late-hatched fish, increasing their access to fish prey (i.e., sunfishes) during fall. This in turn elevated their fall lipid accumulation and winter survival above that of late-hatched fish. Our results indeed suggest that 1st-yr recruitment of largemouth bass in southern systems is governed by several functionally dependent critical events. Because each is likely vital to understanding recruitment variability, we suggest that future recruitment studies should adopt a more synthetic (i.e., multiple life-stage) approach.
This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation grants DEB-9108986 and DEB-9410323, and Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Project F40-R administered by the Alabama Game and Fish Division to DRD.
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