The effects of stress during white sturgeon early life history on larval physiology, development and olfactory sensitivity
Elevated levels of stress hormones (i.e. cortisol) provide a potential mechanism by which substrate condition affects larval development and survival in the endangered white sturgeon. The possibility that stress hormones mediate larval response to substrate conditions will be investigated by artificially elevating cortisol levels and identifying effects on larval physiology. Cortisol levels of wild caught adult fish will also be investigated to determine the effects of capture and handling on spawning success and larval quality. Two final projects will investigate whether substrate condition (habitat stress) affects larval olfactory development and/or thyroid hormone levels. Both of these factors may be linked to the mechanism of imprinting by which fish return to their birthplace to spawn (e.g. salmon). A better understanding of factors affecting larval survival and quality will help both project partners implement both hatchery and habitat based components of the species recovery plan.