Population structuring in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar): evidence of genetic influence on the timing of smolt migration in sub-catchment stocks


David C. Stewart, FRS Freshwater Laboratory, Faskally, Pitlochry, Perthshire, UK e-mail: D.C.Stewart@marlab.ac.uk


Abstract –  We compared timing of smolt migration for two populations of naturally spawned Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, originating from an upper catchment (River Tummel) and a lower catchment (River Almond) tributary of the River Tay, Scotland. Smolts from the upper tributary began migration earlier than those from the lower tributary. On both occasions when fry derived from River Isla (lower tributary) stock were transferred to a location in the upper catchment, smolt migration was later than for native fish. Similarly, when fry from Tummel and Isla stocks were stocked in a common, upper catchment location, Isla origin fish migrated at a later date, in both of the two following smolt years. These differences are indicative of a genetic basis for the timing of smolt migration and suggestive of local adaptation. Mounting evidence points towards local genetic adaptation for the timing of expression of behaviours associated with migration. These aspects of variation should be accommodated in management theory and practices.