Effects of Climate Change on Learning and Memory in Early Life Stages of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
Major Goals and Objectives
Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) are facing a number of threats, including both climate change and predation by invasive species. Despite these ongoing threats to multiple life stages, research has rarely investigated pressures in combination. When studies do assess one of these threats, they often focus on a single life stage, and it is not often the embryonic stage. Our study aims to understand how climate change could impact predator recognition, memory, and avoidance in the two earliest life stages of lake sturgeon. We will “train” lake sturgeon embryos to recognize a predator using associative learning of olfactory alarm and predator cues. We will also raise the embryos in different thermal conditions. At the embryonic stage, we anticipate that those in the warmest water will exhibit the weakest antipredator behaviors, and those in the coolest will exhibit the strongest. At the larval stage, we anticipate those that were raised in the warmest water will have the weakest memory of the predator, and will lose their antipredator behaviors most quickly, while those raised in the coolest water will retain their memory of the predator the longest. Our research will help inform conservation plans for hatcheries looking to rear early-life lake sturgeon for release into Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes region more broadly.