We examined associations among embryonic developmental rate (EDR) as measured by hatching time, juvenile body weight (BW) and propensity for precocial sexual maturation (PM) at two years in two sets of diallel crosses of rainbow trout produced in two spawning seasons (September and December) at both the phenotypic and genotypic levels. Dams and sires had highly significant effects on the body weight of their male juvenile progeny on three measurement dates where parental effects remained consistent through time. Dams spawning earlier in the season produced a greater number of mature male progeny (56.7%) than did later spawning females (25.6%). The families from the December lot showed the expected associations among traits in that earlier hatching fish were significantly heavier on all three measurement dates than later hatching fish and were more likely to mature earlier when families were combined. Moreover, earlier maturing fish were significantly heavier on the third measurement date than those that did not mature. In the September lot, mature fish were significantly heavier as juveniles on all three measurement dates than immature fish as predicted but no significant associations were detected between EDR and BW or between PM and EDR. Significant QTL were detected for all three traits but the linkage group location varied depending on the trait and half-sib group analyzed (across dams and sires in each lot). A strong QTL for EDR with genome-wide effects was detected on linkage group RT-8 in all four half-sib analyses. None of the four linkage groups analyzed had QTL for all three traits. However, the phenotypic association between EDR and BW observed in the December lot was supported by the co-localization of QTL to linkage group RT-8 and a positive coupling of allelic effects. RT-8 marker alleles significantly associated with faster EDR were also associated with larger BW and this was observed in numerous families on all three measurement dates. Linkage group RT-24 had weaker QTL for all three traits in the September lot but these were not detected in the same half-sib group simultaneously. At the allelic level, marker alleles for faster EDR were also associated with BW but only at the third measurement date and the progeny of one male. Similarly, RT-30 had weaker QTL for EDR and PM in the December paternal half-sib analysis but no associations were evident at the allelic level. The detection of associations between life history traits and growth at both the phenotypic and genotypic levels has significant implications to aquaculture breeding programs where selection for a desirable trait may lead to unwanted alterations of other traits. Furthermore, the differences between spawning season lots emphasize the complex interaction between environment and genotype on economically important traits and the resulting challenges for aquaculture.
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