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Data from: Human-mediated evolution in a threatened species? Juvenile life-history changes in Snake River salmon

Cite this dataset

Waples, Robin S. et al. (2017). Data from: Human-mediated evolution in a threatened species? Juvenile life-history changes in Snake River salmon [Dataset]. Dryad.


Evaluations of human impacts on Earth's ecosystems often ignore evolutionary changes in response to altered selective regimes. Freshwater habitats for Snake River fall Chinook salmon (SRFCS), a threatened species in the U.S., have been dramatically changed by hydropower development and other watershed modifications. Associated biological changes include a shift in juvenile life history: historically essentially 100% of juveniles migrated to sea as subyearlings, but a substantial fraction have migrated as yearlings in recent years. In contemplating future management actions for this species should major Snake River dams ever be removed (as many have proposed), it will be important to understand whether evolution is at least partially responsible for this life-history change. We hypothesized that if this trait is genetically based, parents who migrated to sea as subyearlings should produce faster-growing offspring that would be more likely to reach a size threshold to migrate to sea in their first year. We tested this with phenotypic data for over 2600 juvenile SRFCS that were genetically matched to parents of hatchery and natural origin. Three lines of evidence supported our hypothesis: 1) the animal model estimated substantial heritability for juvenile growth rate for three consecutive cohorts; 2) linear modeling showed an association between juvenile life history of parents and offspring growth rate; and 3) faster-growing juveniles migrated at greater speeds, as expected if they were more likely to be heading to sea. Surprisingly, we also found that parents reared a full year in a hatchery produced the fastest-growing offspring of all—apparently an example of cross-generational plasticity associated with artificial propagation. We suggest that SRFCS is an example of a potentially large class of species that can be considered to be “anthro-evolutionary”—signifying those whose evolutionary trajectories have been profoundly shaped by altered selective regimes in human-dominated landscapes.

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Snake River