Fine-scale temporal adaptation within a salmonid population: mechanism and consequences

Authors

  • Anthony J. Gharrett,

    Corresponding author
    • Fisheries Division, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau, AK, USA
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  • John Joyce,

    1. Fisheries Division, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau, AK, USA
    2. Auke Bay Laboratories, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Juneau, AK, USA
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  • William W. Smoker

    1. Fisheries Division, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau, AK, USA
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Correspondence: Anthony J. Gharrett, Fax: 907 796 5445; E-mail: a.gharrett@alaska.edu

Abstract

We demonstrate a clear example of local adaptation of seasonal timing of spawning and embryo development. The consequence is a population of pink salmon that is segmented into spawning groups that use the same limited habitat. We synthesize published observations with results of new analyses to demonstrate that genetic variation of these traits results in survival differentials related to that variation, and that density-dependent embryo mortality and seasonally variable juvenile mortality are a mechanism of selection. Most examples of local adaptation in natural systems depend on observed correlations between environments and fitness traits, but do not fully demonstrate local adaptation: that the trait is genetically determined, exhibits different fitness in common environments or across different environments, and its variation is mechanistically connected to fitness differences. The geographic or temporal scales of local adaptation often remain obscure. Here, we show that heritable, fine-scale differences of timing of reproductive migration in a pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) resulted in temporal structure that persisted several generations; the differences enable a density-dependent population to pack more spawners into limited spawning habitat, that is, enhance its fitness. A balanced trade-off of survivals results because embryos from early-migrating fish have a lower freshwater survival (harsh early physical conditions and disturbance by late spawners), but emigrant fry from late-migrating fish have lower marine survivals (timing of their vernal emergence into the estuarine environment). Such fine-scale local adaptations increase the genetic portfolio of the populations and may provide a buffer against the impacts of climate change.

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