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Physiological and Genomic Signatures of Evolutionary Thermal Adaptation in Redband Trout from Extreme Climates

Dec 12, 2019


Temperature is a master environmental factor that limits the geographical distribution of species, especially in ectotherms. To address challenges in biodiversity conservation under ongoing climate change, it is essential to characterize relevant functional limitations and adaptive genomic content at population and species levels. Here, we present evidence for adaptive divergence in cardiac function and genomic regions in Redband Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) populations from desert and montane streams. Cardiac phenotypes of individual fish were measured in the field with a custom-built electrocardiogram apparatus. Maximum heart rate and its rate limiting temperature during acute warming were significantly higher in fish that have evolved in the extreme of a desert climate compared to a montane climate. Association mapping with 526,301 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the genome revealed signatures of thermal selection both within and among ecotypes. Among desert and montane populations, 435 SNPs were identified as putative outliers under natural selection and 20 of these loci showed significant association with average summer water temperatures among populations. Phenotypes for cardiac performance were variable within each ecotype, and 207 genomic regions were strongly associated with either maximum heart rate or rate limiting temperatures among individuals. Annotation of significant loci provided candidate genes that underlie thermal adaptation, including pathways associated with cardiac function (IRX5, CASQ1, CAC1D, and TITIN), neuroendocrine system (GPR17 and NOS), and stress response (SERPH). By integrating comparative physiology and population genomics, results here advance our knowledge on evolutionary processes of thermal adaptation in aquatic ectotherms.


Zhongqi Chen, Anthony Farrell, Amanda Matala, Nicholas Hoffman, and Shawn R. Narum


Chen, Z., A.P. Farrell, A. Matala, N. Hoffman, and S.R. Narum. 2018. Physiological and genomic signatures of evolutionary thermal adaptation in Redband Trout from extreme climates. Evolutionary Applications 11(9):1686-1699. Online at



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Journal Article