Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Deciphering lifelong thermal niche using otolith δ18O thermometry within supplemented lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) populations


Morissette, Olivier; Bernatchez, Louis; Wiendenbeck, Michael; Sirois, Pascal (2020), Deciphering lifelong thermal niche using otolith δ18O thermometry within supplemented lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) populations, Dryad, Dataset,


1. The selection of thermal habitat by fish is strongly regulated by physiology and behaviour. However, delineation of a species lifelong thermal niche remains technically challenging. Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) survival and productivity are recognised as being tightly linked to a somewhat restricted thermal habitat. The factors guiding temperature selection during each life stage remain poorly understood.

2. In this study, we tested the significant factors controlling the realised thermal niche of lake trout from two southern Quebec small boreal lakes that experienced supplementation stocking during the last 20 years. We used oxygen stable isotope (δ18O) thermometry of otolith calcium carbonates (aragonite) using secondary-ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to estimate experienced lifelong temperatures. We investigated the thermal habitat of lake trout with known genotypes (local, hybrid and stocked).

3. Ontogeny and genetic origin influenced temperature selection in both studied lake trout populations. Young-of-the-year consistently used warmer, shallower habitats (10.7 ± 2.6°C, 7.5 m depth) prior to a juvenile transition to colder and deeper waters (8.5 ± 3.3°C, 10 m depth). Stocked lake trout, originating from a genetically distinct ecotype, exhibited a more variable thermal niche, with some individuals consistently using warmer habitat (10.4 ± 1°C) than local fish. Their hybrid progeny also occupied a warmer thermal niche, intermediate to the parental strains. We propose that increased fat content and genetic origin are potential explanatory factors for warmer temperature use.

4. This study reiterates that high-resolution otolith δ18O thermometry is a uniquely well-suited approach for unravelling the multiple factors that influence lifelong temperature selection in fish. Our results illustrate that the realised thermal niche is influenced by a genetic-environment interaction.