• cutthroat trout;
  • hybridization;
  • introgression;
  • rainbow trout;
  • single nucleotide polymorphism;
  • steelhead


Hybridization of cutthroat trout and steelhead/rainbow trout is ubiquitous where they are sympatric, either naturally or owing to introductions. The ability to detect hybridization and introgression between the two species would be greatly improved by the development of more diagnostic markers validated across the two species’ many phylogenetic lineages. Here, we describe 81 novel genetic markers and associated assays for discriminating the genomes of these sister species. These diagnostic nucleotide polymorphisms were discovered by sequencing of rainbow trout expressed sequence tags (ESTs) in a diverse panel of both cutthroat trout and steelhead/rainbow trout. The resulting markers were validated in a large number of lineages of both species, including all extant subspecies of cutthroat trout and most of the lineages of rainbow trout that are found in natural sympatry with cutthroat trout or used in stocking practices. Most of these markers (79%) distinguish genomic regions for all lineages of the two species, but a small number do not reliably diagnose coastal, westslope and/or other subspecies of cutthroat trout. Surveys of natural populations and hatchery strains of trout and steelhead found rare occurrences of the alternative allele, which may be due to either previous introgression or shared polymorphism. The availability of a large number of genetic markers for distinguishing genomic regions originating in these sister species will allow the detection of both recent and more distant hybridization events, facilitate the study of the evolutionary dynamics of hybridization and provide a powerful set of tools for the conservation and management of both species.