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Natal movement in juvenile Atlantic salmon: a body size-dependent strategy?

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Einum, Sigurd ; Finstad, Anders G.; Robertsen, Grethe ; Nislow, Keith H.; McKelvey, Simon ; Armstrong, John D.

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Population Ecology


If competitive ability depends on body size, then the optimal natal movement from areas of high local population density can also be predicted to be size-dependent. Specifically, small, competitively-inferior individuals would be expected to benefit most from moving to areas of lower local density. Here we evaluate whether individual variation in natal movement following emergence from nests is consistent with such a size-dependent strategy in Atlantic salmon, and whether such a strategy is evident across a range of environmental conditions (principally predator presence and conspecific density). In stream channel experiments, those juveniles that stayed close to nests were larger than those that emigrated. This result was not sensitive to predator presence or conspecific density. These observations were mirrored in natural streams in which salmon eggs were planted in nests and the resulting offspring were sampled at high spatial resolution. A negative relationship was found between juvenile body size and distance from nests early in development whereas in those streams sampled later in ontogeny, individuals that had moved furthest were largest. Thus, movement away from nests appeared to result in a reduced competitive intensity and increased growth rate. The fact that there is ultimately a growth advantage associated with moving suggests that there is also a cost that selects against movement by the larger individuals. Thus, natal movement in juvenile Atlantic salmon appears to represent a body size-dependent strategy.


Conditional strategy; Density dependence; Dispersal; Salmo salar; Spatial distribution


Einum, Sigurd; Finstad, Anders G.; Robertsen, Grethe; Nislow, Keith H.; McKelvey, Simon; Armstrong, John D. 2012. Natal movement in juvenile Atlantic salmon: a body size-dependent strategy?. Population Ecology. 54(2): 285-294.

Last updated on: June 15, 2018