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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Assessing the potential of improving growth and survival to the eyed stage in selectively bred Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus)

Palaiokostas, Christos; Jeuthe, Henrik; De Koning, Dirk-Jan


The Arctic charr breeding programme has been a main driving force for developing the aquaculture industry in Sweden. Selection has been performed for almost 40 years using animals from a closed breeding nucleus. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the potential of further improving growth-related traits taking into account the existence of genotype-by-environment interaction. Furthermore, we investigated the magnitude of the genetic component associated with survival to the eyed stage and potential associations with inbreeding coefficients. A preliminary heritability estimate of 0.23 (SE0.20) was obtained for survival to the eyed stage using records spanning from 2000 to 2017 (n = 230). Moreover, moderate-to-high heritability estimates (0.27-0.49) were obtained for growth-related traits (body weight and length), using animals from the latest generation of selection (year class 2017). Those animals (n = 2,776), originating from 55 full-sib families, were split into two groups and reared in separate land-based facilities of commercial fish farms in Sweden. The growth-related traits were recorded twice in both sites when animals were of >1 and >2 years of age. Existence of sexual growth dimorphism was indicated with the males having on average 6%-8% higher total length and 22%-34% higher body weight. Furthermore, high genetic correlations regarding growth traits were obtained amongst animals reared at the two different sites (0.82-0.95). In addition, we assessed the accuracy of best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP)-derived estimated breeding values (EBVs) when phenotypes from each rearing site were subsequently masked and used as a validation set. A mean prediction accuracy of 0.60 (length) and 0.64 (weight) were derived for both rearing sites. Overall, our results suggest that further growth improvements should be possible in the subsequent generations of selection. Finally, even though indications for the existence of an underlying genetic component(s) involved in survival to the eyed stage were obtained additional data will be required for elucidating its magnitude.


Arctic charr; egg survival; genotype-by-environment interaction; selective breeding

Published in

Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics
2021, Volume: 138, number: 3, pages: 326-337
Publisher: WILEY