Natal homing is a hallmark of the life history of salmonid fishes, but the spatial scale of homing within local, naturally reproducing salmon populations is still poorly understood. Accurate homing (paired with restricted movement) should lead to the existence of fine-scale genetic structuring due to the spatial clustering of related individuals on spawning grounds. Thus, we explored the spatial resolution of natal homing using genetic associations among individual Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in an interconnected stream network. We also investigated the relationship between genetic patterns and two factors hypothesized to influence natal homing and localized movements at finer scales in this species, localized patterns in the distribution of spawning gravels and sex. Spatial autocorrelation analyses showed that spawning locations in both sub-basins of our study site were spatially clumped, but the upper sub-basin generally had a larger spatial extent and continuity of redd locations than the lower sub-basin, where the distribution of redds and associated habitat conditions were more patchy. Male genotypes were not autocorrelated at any spatial scale in either sub-basin. Female genotypes showed significant spatial autocorrelation and genetic patterns for females varied in the direction predicted between the two sub-basins, with much stronger autocorrelation in the sub-basin with less continuity in spawning gravels. The patterns observed here support predictions about differential constraints and breeding tactics between the two sexes and the potential for fine-scale habitat structure to influence the precision of natal homing and localized movements of individual Chinook salmon on their breeding grounds.
Additional publication details
Fine-scale natal homing and localized movement as shaped by sex and spawning habitat in chinook salmon