Genetic divergence and interactions in the wild among native, farmed and hybrid Atlantic salmon


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There is concern that the progeny resulting from the spawnings of escaped farmed Atlantic salmon may compete with and disrupt native salmon populations. This study compared, both in the hatchery and in the wild, fitness-related traits and examined interactions among farmed, native and hybrid 0+ parr derived from controlled crosses and reared under common conditions. The farmed salmon were seventh-generation fish from the principal commercial strain in Norway and native salmon were from the rivers Imsa and Lone, Norway. In the hatchery, farmed salmon were more aggressive than both native populations and tended to dominate them in pairwise contests. Farmed salmon were also more prone to risk, leaving cover sooner after a simulated predator attack, and had higher growth rates than native fish. Interbreeding between farmed and native fish generally resulted in intermediate expression of the above traits. There was, however, evidence of hybrid vigour in Lone/farmed crosses which were able to dominate both pure Lone and farmed parr in pairwise contests. In the wild, observations of habitat use and diet suggested that the populations compete for territory and food, and both farmed fish and hybrids expressed higher growth rates than native fish. Our results suggest that these innate differences in behaviour and growth, that probably are linked closely to fitness, will threaten native populations through competition and disruption of local adaptations.