Tales from scales: old DNA yields insights into contemporary evolutionary processes affecting fishes


  • doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04199.x

T.P. Quinn, Fax: (206)685 7471 6; E-mail: tquinn@u.washington.edu


Salmon and trout populations are suffering declines in abundance and diversity over much of their range around the Atlantic and Pacific rims as a consequence of many factors. One method of dealing with the decline has been to produce them in hatcheries but the wisdom of this approach has been hotly debated (e.g. Hilborn & Winton 1993; Waples 1999; Brannon et al. 2004). One concern is that domesticated hatchery strains will interbreed with locally adapted wild fish; but how do we study the genetic effects if the introgression might have occurred in the past? Hansen (2002) used DNA isolated from archived scales from brown trout, Salmo trutta (Fig. 1), to show that domesticated trout had, to varying degrees, genetically introgressed with wild, native trout in two Danish rivers. Extending that study, Hansen et al. (2009) have examined DNA from brown trout scales in six Danish rivers collected during historical (1927–1956) and contemporary (2000–2006) periods and from two hatchery source populations, to assess the effects of stocking nonlocal strains of hatchery trout and declining abundance on genetic diversity. Using 21 microsatellite loci, they revealed that genetic change occurred between the historic and contemporary time periods. Many populations appeared to have some low level of introgression from hatchery stocks and two populations apparently experienced high levels of introgression. Hansen et al. (2009) also showed that population structure persists in contemporary populations despite apparent admixture and migration among populations, providing evidence that the locally adapted populations have struggled against and, to some extent, resisted being overwhelmed by repeated introductions of and interbreeding with non-native, hatchery-produced conspecifics.

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Photograph of a brown trout, Salmo trutta, one of many species of salmon and trout (Family Salmonidae) that are widely produced in hatcheries to enhance recreational and commercial fisheries. Photo by Peter Westley, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's NFLD, Canada.