Understanding Maternal Effects as a Recruitment Mechanism in Lake Michigan Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)

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Changes that have occurred in the abundance and trait distribution of adult Lake Michigan yellow perch (Perca flavescens) suggest that maternal effects on larval traits may be substantially influencing the recruitment of this heavily exploited species. Maternal effects on yellow perch larvae at hatching and through 32 days post hatch (dph) were investigated in ten maternal lines to test the null hypotheses of no effect of maternal condition on offspring condition at hatching, no persistence of maternal effects under conditions of starvation and high food availability, and no difference in offspring survival under conditions of starvation and high food availability. Maternal effects were detectable at hatching and likely result in differences among females in size, age, gonadal somatic index, and egg production. Maternal effects at hatching were expressed by differences in larval total length, yolk volume, dry weight, and DNA quantity. Maternal effects persisted under conditions of starvation to 6 dph, after which point virtually all larvae had perished. Maternal effects resulted in a twofold difference in resistance to starvation among the maternal lines. Larvae that exhibited the lowest resistance to starvation were long with small yolk volumes, while those exhibiting the highest resistance to starvation were short with large yolk volumes. Under high food availability maternal effects persisted to 32 dph, and resulted in threefold differences in survival among the maternal lines. No clear mechanism was identified to account for these survival differences. The observed maternal effects in Lake Michigan yellow perch may have substantial implications on recruitment.