Spawning behaviour and the softmouth trout dilemma          [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

  • Manu Esteve
  • Deborah Ann McLennan
  • John Andrew Zablocki
  • Gašper Pustovrh
  • Ignacio Doadrio
Keywords: phylogeny, spawning behavior, underwater video


Morphological, ecological and molecular data sets do not completely agree on the phylogenetic placement of the softmouth trout, Salmo (Salmothymus) obtusirostris (Heckel). Molecules posit that softmouths are closely related to brown trout, Salmo trutta L. while some morphological, ecological and life history traits place them in the most basal position of the Salmoninae subfamily between grayling (Thymallus) and lenok (Brachymystax). Here we add an additional source of data, behavioural characters based on the first reported observations of softmouth spawning. During spawning softmouth females present three important behaviours not found in the other Salmo members: they continually abandon their nests, rarely staying on them for periods over nine minutes; they expel different batches of eggs at the same nest at intervals of several minutes; and they do not cover their eggs immediately after spawning. These three behaviours are intriguing for two reasons: 1) they are possible homologous to behaviours found in grayling females; 2) when coupled to the nest digging behaviour-widespread in all the salmonines, including softmouths, they seem to be mal-adaptive.


M. Esteve [+], I. Doadrio
Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
Jose Gutierrez Abascal 2, Madrid, Spain
D.A. McLennan
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks St, Toronto, M5S 3G5 ON, Canada
J.A. Zablocki
Trout Unlimited, 720 Tahoe St STE 1, Reno NV 89509, USA
G. Pustovrh
University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department of Animal Science, Groblje 3, 1230 Domžale, Slovenia