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Keywords:

  • archaeological remains;
  • bayesian evolutionary analysis by sampling trees;
  • demographic trends;
  • life history;
  • Salmo;
  • Upper Palaeolithic

Abstract

Life history traits determine fitness and hence the ability of populations and species to survive through adverse conditions. Therefore, identifying temporal changes in life history traits over large timescales is necessary to understand and predict the effect of current global change on wild populations. In this study, we compare life history traits between Palaeolithic and present-day vertebrates, analysing the number of winters spent in the river and at sea by North Iberian salmonids (Salmo salar and Salmo trutta) from two separate time frames: the Upper Palaeolithic, based on archaeological remains, and the present day, based on sport catches. The river stage did not change significantly, but the marine period has been shortened in modern anadromous specimens, accordingly shortening mean generation time. Population growth rates have been estimated through Bayesian analyses of the mitochondrial DNA control region of modern specimens for the two Salmo species using two different mutation rates (1% and 3.6%). Coincidence of coalescent Ne estimates with independent Ne calculated from catches suggests that the 3.6% mutation rate fits better the evolution of the studied populations. Population growth rate declines would have occurred in the last millennium and could be explained by a combination of climatic events and anthropogenic activities.