Evaluating the evolutionary mechanisms maintaining alternative mating strategies in a simulated bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) population

Thaïs A. Bernos, Sarah L. Chang, Rachael M. Giglio, Kaeli Davenport, Jeff Fisher, Erin Lowery, Andrew Bearlin, Ryan Simmons, Marie Josée Fortin, Casey C. Day, Erin L. Landguth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coexistence of distinct alternative mating strategies (AMS) is often explained by mechanisms involving trade-offs between reproductive traits and lifetime fitness; yet their relative importance remains poorly understood. Here, we used an established individual-based, spatially explicit model to simulate bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the Skagit River (Washington, USA) and investigated the influence of female mating preference, sneaker-specific mortality, and variation in age-at-maturity on AMS persistence using global sensitivity analyses and boosted regression trees. We assumed that two genetically fixed AMS coexisted within the population: sneaker males (characterized by younger age-at-maturity, greater AMS-specific mortality, and lower reproductive fitness) and territorial males. After 300 years, variation in relative sneaker success in the system was explained by sneaker males' reproductive fitness (72%) and, to a lesser extent, the length of their reproductive lifespan (21%) and their proportion in the initial population (8%). However, under a wide range of parameter values, our simulated scenarios predicted the extinction of territorial males or their persistence in small, declining populations. Although these results do not resolve the coexistence of AMS in salmonids, they reinforce the importance of mechanisms reducing sneaker's lifetime reproductive success in favoring AMS coexistence within salmonid populations but also limit the prediction that, without any other selective mechanisms at play, strong female preference for mating with territorial males and differences in reproductive lifespan allow the stable coexistence of distinct AMS.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9965
Pages (from-to)e9965
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • CDMetaPOP
  • Skagit River
  • alternative mating tactics
  • boosted regression trees
  • global sensitivity approach
  • individual-based spatially explicit model
  • riverscape genetics
  • salmonid
  • simulation
  • sneakers


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