Remaining populations of westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) in western North America are primarily confined to cold headwaters whereas nonnative rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) predominate in warmer, lower elevation stream sections historically occupied by westslope cutthroat trout. We tested whether differing thermal preferences could account for the spatial segregation observed in the field. Thermal preferences of age-1 westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout (125 to 150 mm total length) were assessed in the laboratory using a modified annular preference chamber at acclimation temperatures of 10, 12, 14, and 16??C Final preferred temperature of westslope cutthroat trout (14.9??C) was similar to that of rainbow trout (14.8??C) when tested in a thermal gradient of 11-17??C The high degree of overlap in thermal preference indicates the two species have similar thermal niches and a high potential for competition. We suggest several modifications to the annular preference chamber to improve performance in future studies.
Additional publication details
Use of an annular chamber for testing thermal preference of westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout