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Epigenetic Effects Associated with Salmonid Supplementation and Domestication

Jun 1, 2022


Several studies have demonstrated lower fitness of salmonids born and reared in a hatchery setting compared to those born in nature, yet broad-scale genome-wide genetic differences between hatchery-origin and natural-origin fish have remained largely undetected. Recent research efforts have focused on using epigenetic tools to explore the role of heritable changes outside of genetic variation in response to hatchery rearing. We synthesized the results from salmonid studies that have directly compared methylation differences between hatchery-origin and natural-origin fish. Overall, the majority of studies found substantial differences in methylation patterns and overlap in functional genomic regions between hatchery-origin and natural-origin fish which have been replicated in parallel across geographical locations. Epigenetic differences were consistently found in the sperm of hatchery-origin versus natural-origin fish along with evidence for maternal effects, providing a potential source of multigenerational transmission. While there were clear epigenetic differences in gametic lines between hatchery-origin and natural-origin fish, only a limited number explored the potential mechanisms explaining these differences. We outline opportunities for epigenetics to inform salmonid breeding and rearing practices and to mitigate for fitness differences between hatchery-origin and natural-origin fish. We then provide possible explanations and avenues of future epigenetics research in salmonid supplementation programs, including: 1) further exploration of the factors in early development shaping epigenetic differences, 2) understanding the functional genomic changes that are occurring in response to epigenetic changes, 3) elucidating the relationship between epigenetics, phenotypic variation, and fitness, and 4) determining heritability of epigenetic marks along with persistence of marks across generations.



Koch, I.J., H.M. Nuetzel, and S.R. Narum. 2022. Epigenetic effects associated with salmonid supplementation and domestication. Environmental Biology of Fishes. Online at



Report No.


Media Type

Journal Article