Using a genetic mixture model to study phenotypic traits: Differential fecundity among Yukon river Chinook Salmon

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
By: , and 



Fecundity is a vital population characteristic that is directly linked to the productivity of fish populations. Historic data from Yukon River (Alaska) Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha suggest that length‐adjusted fecundity differs among populations within the drainage and either is temporally variable or has declined. Yukon River Chinook salmon have been harvested in large‐mesh gill‐net fisheries for decades, and a decline in fecundity was considered a potential evolutionary response to size‐selective exploitation. The implications for fishery conservation and management led us to further investigate the fecundity of Yukon River Chinook salmon populations. Matched observations of fecundity, length, and genotype were collected from a sample of adult females captured from the multipopulation spawning migration near the mouth of the Yukon River in 2008. These data were modeled by using a new mixture model, which was developed by extending the conditional maximum likelihood mixture model that is commonly used to estimate the composition of multipopulation mixtures based on genetic data. The new model facilitates maximum likelihood estimation of stock‐specific fecundity parameters without first using individual assignment to a putative population of origin, thus avoiding potential biases caused by assignment error. The hypothesis that fecundity of Chinook salmon has declined was not supported; this result implies that fecundity exhibits high interannual variability. However, length‐adjusted fecundity estimates decreased as migratory distance increased, and fecundity was more strongly dependent on fish size for populations spawning in the middle and upper portions of the drainage. These findings provide insights into potential constraints on reproductive investment imposed by long migrations and warrant consideration in fisheries management and conservation. The new mixture model extends the utility of genetic markers to new applications and can be easily adapted to study any observable trait or condition that may vary among populations.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Using a genetic mixture model to study phenotypic traits: Differential fecundity among Yukon river Chinook Salmon
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1080/00028487.2011.558776
Volume 140
Issue 2
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 235
Last page 249
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