Title

Reproductive strategies in small populations: using Atlantic salmon as a case study

Publication Date

2007

Journal or Book Title

ECOLOGY OF FRESHWATER FISH

Abstract

Wild salmonid populations with only a few breeding adults may not exhibit a significant reduction in genetic variability compared with larger populations. Such an observation suggests that effective population sizes are larger than population size estimates based on direct adult counts and/or the mating strategy maximises outbreeding, contributing to increased heterozygosity. In the case of wild Atlantic salmon Salmo salar populations, stratification by age classes and sexes on the spawning grounds avoids inbreeding and increases genetic variability. We studied the breeding composition of four Spanish salmon populations. Over a 7-year period we concluded that the probability of within-cohort mating is very low: females generally reproduce after two sea-winters whereas males reproduce mostly as one sea-winter (grilse) and/or mature parr. Considering different levels of contribution of mature parr to spawning derived from field surveys, we developed a simple model for estimating effective population sizes and found that they doubled with 65% parr contribution expected for rivers at this latitude (43°N), and ranged from 100–800 individuals. The effect of between-cohort mating was modelled considering different ranges of differences in allele frequencies between cohorts and resulted in 28–50% increases in heterozygosity when considering a 65% parr contribution. The complex mating strategy of Atlantic salmon contributes to explain the high levels of genetic variability found for small populations of this species. This model can probably be extended to other animal species with mating strategies involving different cohorts.

DOI

10.1111/j.1600-0633.2007.00224.x

Volume

16

Issue

4

Pages

468-475

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