Friday, November 7, 2008

When a Cutthroat meets a Rainbow

ResearchBlogging.orgSubmitted by Christopher Clapp for the Evolution class.

The introduction of a known species of rainbow trout into a native population of cutthroat trout and the consequences of their contact within their environments is the focus of this study. The interaction of these two species has resulted in their study of subsequent progeny shows hybridization of the two, and thus a decline of the natural populations of cutthroat trout. The implications of this hybridization will show throughout subsequent generations, considering what is known of the native species. Metcalf uses mitochondrial and nuclear markers to determine the levels of crossing of the two species based on the nature of homozygous or heterozygous allele category. These populations of hybridization were evaluated due to the known history of the streams being studied. Trout being separated by natural geographic restrictions such as natural waterfalls or by human chemical treatment conducted in the past forms for a basis of evaluation.

The successful progeny of hybridization between the two locations is evident; however there are differences between the chemically treated streams and the naturally restricted. Interestingly enough, results show that there is a trend of the cutthroat nuclear trout alleles being more prevalent beyond the upstream barrier as expected. The mitochondrial alleles were more prevalent within the hybrid or rainbow species within the areas that direct contact has been introduced within the natural barrier stream. Our study supports the notion that natural waterfall barriers provide a refuge for pure native cutthroat trout genomes across their range (Metcalf et al 2008). In the Cony Creek population, which was subject to chemical treatment in 1984, the nuclear markers were more prevalent within the cutthroat species. This bias toward the pure cutthroat is speculated to be due to the chemical treatment of the streams to eradicate the rainbow trout populations amidst restocking the cutthroat population (Rosenlund et al. 2001). Why is the case? The allele frequency distributions and disequilibrium values suggest that hybridization has been underway for longer in Cony Creek than in Graneros Creek according to Metcalf, et al (2008). I seem to feel that introducing a chemical treatment to an environment that focuses directly on one specific species allows for a re-founding of the native species. However, there findings show the invasiveness nature of the rainbow species. Over time the cutthroat nativity would be eradicated regardless of natural barrier or chemical treatment. This poses two major problems for the environment with regard to the natural species, and the changes of fish populations within streams. The introduction of new fishes for conservation strategies not only directly affect the native population, it affects the ecosystem among other animals within the environment as well. If an aggressive population of trout that is more successful than the native, the impact on resources for the community will also be affected; the environment will be in disequilibrium.

We seem to have two intrusions of the human hand into an environment, one for the introduction of the rainbow, and one to eradicate the rainbow trout species. The study shows that there is greater fitness among the hybrids. The cross between a rainbow trout female and a cutthroat male resulted in a shorter time to hatching and the progeny had a faster growth rate and a greater abundance of yolk at hatch and emergence than the hybrids of the reciprocal cross (Hawkins and Foote, 1998). Nevertheless, the two species form a system of fertility to study the hybrid selection based on natural selection and/or the effects of human based effects in the form of conservation strategies. What is this to say for the natural selection of the hybrid species or the difference between the two, and what are the effects of the introduction on the environment? Historically fishless lakes and streams have been associated with declines in amphibians, changes in invertebrate communities and changes in nutrient cycling (Knapp and Matthews, 2000). However, there is always something to be learned from the development of a new species. The selection and fitness over such a short amount of time is interesting to evaluate within the two species.

It seems to be that the rainbow trout are invading the natural species of cutthroat, and have an effect on the native species. Why are the rainbows so successful at invading this species? What are we to learn of the intrusion of populations by human hands? Either way, I agree with Metcalf in the capacity that the evaluation of the new hybrid species will give insight into long-term conservation strategies. It seems that if we limit the studies and only hold them as individuals there will always be contradiction of the results. Conservation methods and steps may be a bit naïve if you only consider one method to achieve one result. By not considering the whole picture, we are increasing our opportunity cost, and thus the potential for loss.


Denise K. Hawkins, Chris J. Foote (1998). Early survival and development of coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki), steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and reciprocal hybrids Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 55 (9), 2097-2104 DOI: 10.1139/cjfas-55-9-2097

Roland A. Knapp, Kathleen R. Matthews (2000). Non-Native Fish Introductions and the Decline of the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog from within Protected Areas Conservation Biology, 14 (2), 428-438 DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.99099.x

J. L. Metcalf, M. R. Siegle, A. P. Martin (2008). Hybridization Dynamics between Colorado's Native Cutthroat Trout and Introduced Rainbow Trout Journal of Heredity, 99 (2), 149-156 DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esm118

Rosenlund BD, Kennedy C, Carnowski K. 2001. Fisheries and the Aquatic management of Rocky Mountain National Park. (US Dept. of the Interior).



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