Carotenoid pigments as phenotypic tracers of salmonid life histories : studies on eggs, alevins and juveniles of trout (Salmo trutta L.) and sea lice of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.)
The use of carotenoid pigments as an archive of feeding behaviour and thus as environmental markers was tested using eggs and juveniles of sea trout and brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) invertebrates from the River Don and ectoparasitic lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis Kroyer) of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.). Carotenoids were analysed by normal phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and the resulting peaks examined in multivariate analyses. Analysis of trout eggs of known parentage suggested that the pigment profile of each egg reflects the migratory history of the maternal fish and it is also representative of the entire egg batch. With the same method, eggs of unknown or disputed parentage could be identified as those of sea trout, brown trout or salmon. Diagnostic properties permitting identification were high amounts of astaxanthin in sea trout eggs; while the presence of lutein, zeaxanthin and a greater number of carotenoid peaks were indicative of brown trout eggs. In hatchery experiments it was established that the diagnostic maternal pigment fingerprint is identifiable for some 1300°d post fertilisation. In this time the majority of carotenoids are metabolised to astaxanthin esters and exogenous feeding will have begun. Muscle tissue carotenoids of juvenile trout in the River Don clearly separated 0+ trout from 1+ fish. The former arrange in a single discrete cluster on the basis of pigmentation, suggesting a common diet throughout the river catchment. Older parr show a specialist diet typical to each region but different from fry, indicating a shift in diet acquisition throughout early life stages. Pigment analysis of stream-living invertebrates and one terrestrial invertebrate revealed that all, except the terrestrial ear-wig, Rhabdiopteryx sp., Gammarus sp. and Leuctra sp., provide a homogeneous pigment profile. In contrast, Gammarus sp. was found to be the supplier of the greatest relative amount of astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. The diagnostic potential of carotenoids in sea lice was explored in samples taken from wild and farm Atlantic salmon fed on an artificial diet. Astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, which are pigments diagnostic of a natural and synthetic diet respectively, were detected. The ratio of canthaxanthin-like pigment to astaxanthin (C:A ratio) was 45:1 in farm lice and 8:1 in wild lice. Carotenoid content therefore could potentially be used as a tracer of origin of sea lice in epidemiological investigations.