Genetic variation in westslope cutthroat trout reveals that widespread genetic rescue is warranted

Ryan P. Kovach, Robb F. Leary, Donovan A. Bell, Sally Painter, Angela Lodmell, Andrew R. Whiteley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although human fragmentation of freshwater habitats is ubiquitous, the genetic consequences of isolation and a road-map to address them are poorly documented for most fishes. This is unfortunate, because translocation for genetic rescue could help mitigate problems. We used genetic data (32 SNPs) from 203 populations of westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) to (1) document the effect of fragmentation on genetic variation and population structure, (2) identify candidate populations for genetic rescue, and (3) quantify the potential benefits of strategic translocation efforts. Human-isolated populations had substantially lower genetic variation and elevated genetic differentiation, indicating that many populations are strongly influenced by random genetic drift. Based on simple criteria, 23 populations were candidates for genetic rescue, which represented a majority (51%) of suitable populations in one major region (Missouri drainage). Population genetic theory suggests that translocation of a small number of individuals (~5 adults) from nearby populations could dramatically increase heterozygosity by up to 58% (average across populations). This effort provides a clear template for future conservation of westslope cutthroat trout, while simultaneously highlighting the potential need for similar efforts in many freshwater species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-946
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume79
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

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