Early Life Stage Mortality Syndrome in Fishes of the Great Lakes and Baltic Sea

Reduced Egg Thiamine Levels in Inland and Great Lakes Lake Trout and their Relationship with Diet

J. D. Fitzsimons and S. B. Brown

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569087.ch17

Abstract.—Lake trout Salvelinus namaycush eggs were collected from 18 separate locations in the Great Lakes and inland lakes to evaluate the relationship between diet and egg thiamine content. Thiamine concentrations in the eggs of lake trout whose diet consisted primarily of rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax and alewife Alosa pseudoharengus were one-ninth to one-seventeenth those of eggs of lake trout whose diet lacked either of these two species and was composed of lake herring Coregonus artedi, yellow perch Perca flavescens, cyprinids, or invertebrates. Within the Great Lakes, concentrations of thiamine in the eggs of lake trout increased in the order Ontario, Erie, Michigan, Huron < Superior and reflected the proportion of smelt, alewives, or both in the diet. Of the three forms of thiamine found in eggs, free thiamine was the most important and the form most affected by a diet of alewives or smelt. Collections from inland lakes were similar in terms of thiamine content and its relationship to diet composition. Average free thiamine concentrations in lake trout from Lakes Ontario, Erie, Michigan, and Huron were 1.5 to 4 times a threshold of 0.8 nmol/g that has been associated with the development of a thiamine-responsive early mortality syndrome. In contrast, the concentration of free thiamine in Lake Superior lake trout eggs was 26 times the threshold. We concluded that the reduction in egg thiamine concentrations in lake trout whose diet was primarily smelt or alewives was the result of their high thiaminase content, because published thiamine contents could not explain the patterns observed. Egg thiamine concentrations in lake trout were unaffected by maternal age.