Spatio-temporal dynamics of alternative male phenotypes in coho salmon populations in response to ocean environment



    1. Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University, N9 W9, Sapporo 060–0809, Japan; and
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    1. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Coastal Oregon Marine Experimental Station, Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, OR 97365, USA
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    • Current address: Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, NL, A1C 5S7, Canada.

and current address: Yusuke Koseki, Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, NL, A1C 5S7, Canada. E-mail:


  • 1The coexistence of alternative reproductive phenotypes will probably be shaped by spatial and temporal variability in the environment. However, the effects of such variability on coexistence and the scale at which it operates are seldom understood.
  • 2To quantify such effects, we examined spatial and temporal dynamics in the abundance and frequency of alternative phenotypes of male coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch Walbaum, which mature as either large fighters (age-3 ‘hooknoses’) or small sneakers (age-2 ‘jacks’). Using over 20 years of data on coded-wire tagged fish released from nine Oregon hatcheries, we tested for the effects of ocean environment independent of those due to freshwater rearing.
  • 3Annual fluctuations of the abundance of jack and hooknose males within populations were correlated strongly by brood year (cohort) but not by return year (breeding group). This occurred independently of significant effects of release practice (i.e. the number of fish released, body size at release and date of release), indicating that a synchronized fluctuation in mortality during the first year at sea was the predominant cause. As a result, the annual frequency of the alternative phenotypes at breeding varied considerably within populations.
  • 4Spatial patterns in the annual fluctuations of the two phenotypes were similar (i.e. synchronous among populations), except that jacks showed local spatial structure (decreased synchrony with distance) not evident among hooknoses. This suggests that oceanic processes affecting the two phenotypes operate at different spatial scales. Despite effects on salmon abundance, the ocean environment had little influence through its effects on salmon growth on the relative frequencies of the alternative phenotypes within and among populations.
  • 5The results provide insight into the evolutionary dynamics of alternative phenotypes, including an intragenerational time lag that increases annual variability in phenotype frequencies at breeding (return years) and the significance of local freshwater processes, rather than oceanic processes, on phenotype expression. Freshwater processes, such as juvenile growth, timing of migration and breeding competition, operating at evolutionary and intragenerational time-scales, are probably the predominant forces affecting phenotype frequency.