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Abstract

Potential ecological consequences on the natural environment of fast-growing transgenic fish with elevated intrinsic growth rates is an important question should such fish be allowed in commercial production systems. One trait that will strongly affect the spatial extent of consequences is the propensity of transgenic fish to disperse. We addressed this question in three experiments using different measures of spatial dispersal where we compared very young genotypically wild coho salmon with transgenic conspecifics in terms of: (i) group cohesion, (ii) exploratory behavior, and (iii) up- and downstream movements. Transgenic fish were more loosely aggregated, more likely to explore, and less likely to swim upstream, but equally likely to disperse downstream compared with genetically wild fish. These results show that dispersal behavior has been affected by transgenesis and that transgenic fish therefore may venture into habitats previously not used by wild fish. Given the importance of dispersal in ecological risk-assessment of transgenic fish, continued work within this area is warranted and experimental habitats should mimic the potential receiving natural habitats to which transgenic fish are likely to escape or be released to.