Thermal adaptation of westslope cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi
Drinan, Daniel P.
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Understanding local adaptations is a fundamental goal of evolutionary biology and would provide managers information necessary to better protect and conserve species. Salmonids are a particularly useful system for studying local adaptations as they often persist in disparate and isolated environments. In addition, their sensitivity to temperature provides a likely candidate for natural selection to act. I studied thermal adaptation in four wild populations and one hatchery stock of westslope cutthroat trout. Native stream mean summer temperatures ranged from 6.7° to 11.2°C. Embryos were collected from the wild and differences in embryonic development, embryonic survival, and juvenile growth were measured. I found a significant relationship between median embryonic survival and native stream temperatures at warm incubation temperatures (Rank test; P = 0.04). The change in embryonic survival across incubation temperatures was consistent for populations from warm streams, but changed drastically for populations from cool streams. This difference suggests that populations from warmer streams may be thermal generalists, and populations from cooler streams may be thermal specialists. Results have both short- and long-term implications. In the short-term, managers should use these data to support the consideration of local adaptations when performing translocation projects. In the long-term, these data suggest that global climate change may be detrimental for westslope cutthroat trout.