Exposure to exogenous egg cortisol does not rescue juvenile Chinook salmon body size, condition, or survival from the effects of elevated water temperatures
Ecology and Evolution
climate change, cortisol, environmental match, growth, maternal stress, Pacific salmon, performance, prenatal stress, thermal stress
Climate change is leading to altered temperature regimes which are impacting aquatic life, particularly for ectothermic fish. The impacts of environmental stress can be translated across generations through maternally derived glucocorticoids, leading to altered offspring phenotypes. Although these maternal stress effects are often considered negative, recent studies suggest this maternal stress signal may prepare offspring for a similarly stressful environment (environmental match). We applied the environmental match hypothesis to examine whether a prenatal stress signal can dampen the effects of elevated water temperatures on body size, condition, and survival during early development in Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha from Lake Ontario, Canada. We exposed fertilized eggs to prenatal exogenous egg cortisol (1,000 ng/ml cortisol or 0 ng/ml control) and then reared these dosed groups at temperatures indicative of current (+0°C) and future (+3°C) temperature conditions. Offspring reared in elevated temperatures were smaller and had a lower survival at the hatchling developmental stage. Overall, we found that our exogenous cortisol dose did not dampen effects of elevated rearing temperatures (environmental match) on body size or early survival. Instead, our eyed stage survival indicates that our prenatal cortisol dose may be detrimental, as cortisol-dosed offspring raised in elevated temperatures had lower survival than cortisol-dosed and control reared in current temperatures. Our results suggest that a maternal stress signal may not be able to ameliorate the effects of thermal stress during early development. However, we highlight the importance of interpreting the fitness impacts of maternal stress within an environmentally relevant context.
Warriner, Theresa R.; Semeniuk, Christina A.D.; Pitcher, Trevor E.; and Love, Oliver P.. (2020). Exposure to exogenous egg cortisol does not rescue juvenile Chinook salmon body size, condition, or survival from the effects of elevated water temperatures. Ecology and Evolution, 10 (5), 2466-2477.