JAN 01, 2018 5:47 PM PST

Decaying Salmon Bodies Help Younger Populations Thrive

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Salmon do a lot of migrating in their lives, but sometimes the older fish die once they’ve returned home.

While it certainly sounds sad, don’t cry just yet; a new study published in the journal Ecology Letters by researchers from the University of Glasgow suggests that these dying salmon might be doing their offspring a considerable favor.

Image Credit: University of Glasgow

The decaying bodies from these deceased salmon actually fertilize the environment and provide younger salmon with vital nutrients and food sources that foster both growth and genetic diversity. As the researchers point out, each of these factors are critical components for a successful species.

The researchers reached their conclusion after studying ten streams scattered throughout Scotland over the course of several months. Five of the streams received supplemental nutrients to simulate decaying adult salmon bodies, while the other five did not.

Related: Learn all about the secrets behind the swordfish's incredible speed

Several months later, the researchers returned to their streams of study to look for differences between those that received supplemental nutrients and those that didn’t. Their findings underscored how the supplement-enriched streamed harbored healthier salmon populations than those without. 

“Our surveys, backed up by DNA fingerprinting, show that fewer families of young salmon survived in the streams that lacked parent carcasses – and those that were able to survive had higher maximum rates of metabolism, which indicates that the environment favored a particularly competitive and aggressive kind of fish,” explained Dr. Sonya Auer, the lead author of the study.

“But we didn’t see that same narrowing of the gene pool in the streams with more nutrients, so a by-product of the parents’ death is that they maintain the genetic diversity of the next generation.”

Related: Ever wonder what the white gunk on your salmon really is?

As it would seem, younger salmon populations that lack the nutrients provided by the decaying adult bodies aren’t as robust or genetically-diverse. The findings also imply how even the slightest change in this cycle could impact salmon populations and ignite problems down the road.

It should be interesting to see how researchers will use this knowledge for future conservation efforts. Only with additional research will we unravel more clues about mother nature’s witty methods.

Source: University of Glasgow

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAY 28, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Pitcher Plants Inspire Kidney Stone Diagnostic
MAY 28, 2020
Pitcher Plants Inspire Kidney Stone Diagnostic
  Urine contains an abundance of dissolved salts and minerals such as calcium and uric acid. These can form crystal ...
MAY 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
Allosaurus Fossil Bite Marks Indicate Cannibalism
MAY 31, 2020
Allosaurus Fossil Bite Marks Indicate Cannibalism
Anyone that has ever watched Hollywood’s famous Jurassic Park films will know that dinosaurs were large and hungry ...
JUN 01, 2020
Plants & Animals
Sifaka Lemurs Endure Dangerous Ventures to Find Food
JUN 01, 2020
Sifaka Lemurs Endure Dangerous Ventures to Find Food
Sifaka lemurs exist in families of such large numbers, that even an entire cluster of massive trees isn’t fruitful ...
JUN 14, 2020
Plants & Animals
Giant Hornet Queen Struggles to Establish Her Nest
JUN 14, 2020
Giant Hornet Queen Struggles to Establish Her Nest
Giant hornets are among the world’s largest and deadliest hornets, which might explain why they’re so revere ...
JUL 19, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Genetic Surveys Could Help Save Coral Reefs
JUL 19, 2020
Genetic Surveys Could Help Save Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are a significant source of biodiversity and may support up to 25% of life in the ocean. Corals around the w ...
AUG 03, 2020
Plants & Animals
Pollutants, Pathogens and Toxins Found in Shellfish
AUG 03, 2020
Pollutants, Pathogens and Toxins Found in Shellfish
Scientists used cutting edge technologies to assess how pervasive toxic or household chemicals and pathogens like plasti ...
Loading Comments...