Feed intake, growth and carotenoid pigmentation in 1 + Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus (L.), of the Hammerfest and Svalbard strains were studied in fish reared in either separate or mixed groups for 11 weeks. Hammerfest charr grew faster than charr from the Svalbard strain at the group level. The slower overall growth in the Svalbard strain was accompanied by greater variability in feed intake and growth rates than observed amongst the fish of the Hammerfest strain. The higher incidence of bite marks amongst the Svalbard charr suggested that aggressive encounters were more frequent amongst fish of this strain. No significant differ- ences were observed in muscle carotenoid concentration. There was, however, a highly significant positive correlation between muscle carotenoid concentration and weight gain for individual fish of both strains, irrespective of whether the fish were reared separately or in mixed groups. Estimates of muscle carotenoid retention varied from 78 to 96 mg g–1, but there were no differ- ences between strains or between fish reared in single or mixed- strain groups. There were no differences in muscle carotenoid composition between strains or between fish reared in separate or mixed groups. Astaxanthin and idoxanthin, a metabolite of astaxanthin, were present in approximately equal proportions, and made up about 99% of the muscle carotenoid content. The results of this study suggest that flesh pigmentation and its variability may be profoundly influenced by the level of social interactions, mediated through effects on feed intake and growth. These effects may mask genetic variations in the capacity to deposit carotenoids.
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