An understanding of the process of local adaptation would allow managers to better protect and conserve species. Many salmonids are in need of such efforts, and because they often persist in differing, isolated environments, they are useful organisms for studying local adaptation. In addition, the temperature sensitivity of salmonids provides a likely target for natural selection. We studied thermal adaptation in four wild populations and one hatchery stock of westslope cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi . The mean summer temperatures of source streams ranged from 6.7°C to 11.2°C. Embryos were collected from the wild, and embryonic development, embryonic survival, and juvenile growth were determined. A significant relationship between median embryonic survival and source stream temperature was detected. Based on a rank test, populations from colder streams had a greater decline in median embryonic survival at warm temperatures than populations from warmer streams. Embryonic development and juvenile growth did not appear to be influenced by source. These findings suggest that populations are thermally adapted to their source streams and this should be considered by managers. However, further study is necessary to sort out the potential confounding factors, whether genetic or epigenetic.
Additional publication details
Evidence of local adaptation in westslope cutthroat trout