AEI prepress abstract  -  DOI:

Differences in fitness-associated traits between hatchery and wild chum salmon despite long-term immigration by strays

Casey J. McConnell*, Peter A. H. Westley, Megan V. McPhee


ABSTRACT: To assess the potential for introgression and competition between hatchery produced (Hp) and natural origin (No) chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), we quantified a suite of fitness-related morphological and life-history traits on the spawning grounds of a small creek in Southeast Alaska that has high rates of immigration from nearby hatchery programs. Using thermally marked otoliths to distinguish between Hp and No fish, we estimated that 51.4% of individuals examined in 2015 were Hp strays. Compared with their No counterparts, Hp males and females entered the creek significantly later, were younger at maturity, smaller in body length, and smaller for a given age. On average, Hp females lived two less days on the spawning grounds than No females, and also had higher rates of egg retention (47% vs. 19% observed in No females). The observed phenotypic differences between the local No and Hp individuals suggest barriers to introgression through combinations of selection against strays or spatio-temporal segregation on the spawning grounds, though the phenotypic baseline of the No population prior to potential hatchery influence is not known, nor is extent to which environmental plasticity may be influencing trait expression. Although rates of interbreeding may be sufficiently low to currently maintain phenotypic differences between No and Hp strays, at least some spawning did occur by the majority of Hp individuals. Ultimately, it remains unclear how long the presumably adaptive phenotype of the No population may persist given the consistently large numbers of strays annually on the spawning grounds.