Growth rate during early life affects sexual differentiation in roach (Rutilus rutilus)
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Many environmental factors have been shown to influence sex differentiation in fish, resulting in sex-biased populations, but the effects of growth rate have received limited attention. We conducted a controlled laboratory experiment in which growth rate and population density were manipulated in roach (Rutilus rutilus) during early development, and the subsequent effects on sex ratio determined. Significant differences in growth rate between fish populations were induced through provision of three different ration levels. In the slowest growing population there were fewer females compared within the fastest growing population (19% compared to 36% females), suggesting that in roach it may be more advantageous to become a small male than a small female when growth potential is limited. This may result from the fact that fecundity is limited by body size in female roach and that male roach are able to reproduce at a significantly smaller body size than females. In contrast, where roach were kept at different stocking densities, and there were no differences in growth rate, the subsequent proportion of females did not vary. Our data highlight the importance of controlling for growth rate in research on sexual differentiation in this species, notably when assessing for the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals and other environmental factors, and have implications for fisheries management and aquaculture. The underlying mechanism for the influence of growth rate on sex differentiation has yet to be determined but is likely to have a strong endocrinological basis.
KeywordsSex ratio Growth rate Density Roach Environmental sex determination (ESD)
The authors would like to thank Alan Henshaw at the Environment Agency’s fish hatchery unit, Calverton, UK, for providing the adult roach used to generate the fish for this experiment.
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