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Estimating Abundance and Life History Characteristics of Threatened Wild Snake River Steelhead Stocks by Using Genetic Stock Identification

Aug 16, 2012


It is widely recognized that genetic diversity within species is shaped by dynamic habitats. The quantitative and molecular genetic patterns observed are the result of demographics, mutation, migration, and adaptation. The populations of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss in the Columbia River basin (including both resident and anadromous forms and various subspecies) present a special challenge to understanding the relative roles of those factors. Standardized microsatellite data were compiled for 226 collections (15,658 individuals) from throughout the Columbia and Snake River basins to evaluate the genetic patterns of structure and adaptation. The data were primarily from fish of the anadromous life history form, and we used a population grouping procedure based on principal components and hierarchical k-means clustering to cluster populations into eight aggregates or groups with similar allele frequencies. These aggregates approximated geographic regions, and the two largest principal components corresponded to ancestral lineages of Sacramento redband trout O. m. stonei, coastal rainbow trout O. m. irideus, and interior Columbia River redband trout O. m. gairdneri. Genetic data were partitioned among primary aggregates (lower Columbia, middle–upper Columbia, and Snake rivers), and the magnitude of genetic divergence relative to genetic diversity was analyzed (per locus) to test for evidence of selection and subsequent signals of adaptation. Two loci showed higher divergence than expected by chance (i.e., positive selection); however, both of these loci were on the fringe of the 99% confidence level and are potential false positives. Genetic patterns were also significantly correlated with certain environmental and habitat parameters (e.g., precipitation), but the extent to which those correlations are causal as opposed to effectual remains unclear. Despite the remaining questions, these data provide a foundation for more detailed investigations of harvest, admixture, and introgression between hatchery- and natural-origin fish and differences in reproductive success among individuals as well as monitoring trends in productivity.


Matthew Campbell, Christine Kozfkay, Timothy Copeland, William Schrader, Michael Ackerman and Shawn Narum


Campbell, M.R., C.C. Kozfkay, T. Copeland, W.C. Schrader, M.W. Ackerman and S.R. Narum. 2012. Estimating Abundance and Life History Characteristics of Threatened Wild Snake River Steelhead. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 141:1310-1327.



Report No.


Media Type

Journal Article