Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) extinction in small boreal lakes revealed by ephippia pigmentation: a preliminary analysis
Ephippium pigmentation is a plastic trait which can be related to a trade-off between visual predation pressure and better protection of cladoceran eggs against different types of stress. Experimental studies showed that planktivorous fish exert a greater predation pressure on individuals carrying darker ephippia, but little is known about the variation of ephippium pigmentation along gradients of fish predation pressure in natural conditions. For this study, our experimental design included four small boreal lakes with known fish assemblages. Two of the lakes have viable brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) populations, whereas the other two lakes experienced brook trout extinctions during the 20th century. Cladoceran ephippia were extracted from sediment cores at layers corresponding to the documented post- extinction phase (1990's) and from an older layer (1950's) for which the brook trout population status is not known precisely. Our first objective was to determine whether brook trout extinction has a direct effect on both ephippium pigmentation and size. Our second objective was to give a preliminary assessment of the status of brook trout populations in the 1950's by comparing the variation in ephippia traits measured from this layer to those measured in the 1990's, for which the extinction patterns are well known. Cost-effective image analysis was used to assess variation in pigmentation levels in ephippia. This approach provided a proxy for the amount of melanin invested in each ephippium analysed. Our study clearly shows that ephippium pigmentation may represent a better indicator of the presence of fish predators than ephippium size, a trait that showed a less clear pattern of variation between lakes with and without fish. For the 1990's period, ephippia from fishless lakes were darker and showed a slight tendency to be larger than ephippia from lakes with brook trout. However, no clear differences in either ephippium size or pigmentation were observed between the 1990's and 1950's layers within each lake. This suggests that brook trout extinction already occurred before the 1950’s, or that brook trout population abundance was already extremely low before and after the 1990’s. Our preliminary study shows that ephippium pigmentation can be used as a tool to quickly assess present and past predation levels on zooplankton when only sediment samples are available.
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Copyright (c) 2016 Alexandre Bérubé Tellier, Andrea Bertolo, Paul E. Drevnick
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