Whole otolith elemental analysis reveals feeding migration patterns causing growth rate differences in anadromous whitefish from the Baltic Sea

Henry Hägerstrand, Yvette Heimbrand, Mikael von Numers, Jan-Olof Lill, Erkki Jokikokko, Alpo Huhmarniemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Impact of feeding migration pattern on growth rate of whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus L.) from River Kemijoki was investigated. River Kemijoki is located in the northernmost Gulf of Bothnia (Baltic Sea). Whitefish ascending the river to spawn show major growth rate variations. To study whether these variations are related to different feeding areas (migratory connectivity), whole otoliths from fast-growing (FASTG) whitefish (n = 9, age 4 years, average weight 790 g) and slowly growing (SLOWLYG) whitefish (n = 9, age 8 years, average weight 600 g) were analysed for elemental (Ba, Sr, Mg, Zn, Mn, Ca) concentrations by inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry. Results showed that the FASTG whitefish had much lower otolith Ba concentration (~45%, p ≤ .01) than SLOWLYG whitefish, revealing that FASTG whitefish have spent more time in water of higher salinity/lower latitude, that is at feeding grounds in the southern Gulf of Bothnia. Otoliths of the FASTG whitefish had also higher Mg (~25%, p ≤ .001) and Zn (~20%, p ≤ .05) concentrations, but lower Ca (~5%, p ≤ .01) concentrations, than the otoliths from SLOWLYG whitefish. These results further reveal that FASTG and SLOWLYG whitefish have been spatially separated. In conclusion, bulk otolith elemental analysis revealed spatial separation and migration differences in river-spawning whitefish subpopulations in the Gulf of Bothnia, which apparently lead to differences in fish growth rate. Our results increase the understanding of river-spawning whitefish biology and its population structure and dynamics and may contribute to a sustainable management of river-spawning whitefish stocks.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)456–461
JournalEcology of Freshwater Fish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Whitefish
  • Fish otolith
  • otolith strontium
  • migratory connectivity
  • somatic growth
  • otolith elemental composition

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