Lower fitness of hatchery and hybrid rainbow trout compared to naturalized populations in Lake Superior tributaries

Mol Ecol. 2004 Nov;13(11):3379-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2004.02347.x.


We have documented an early life survival advantage by naturalized populations of anadromous rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss over a more recently introduced hatchery population and outbreeding depression resulting from interbreeding between the two strains. We tested the hypothesis that offspring of naturalized and hatchery trout, and reciprocal hybrid crosses, survive equally from fry to age 1+ in isolated reaches of Lake Superior tributary streams in Minnesota. Over the first summer, offspring of naturalized females had significantly greater survival than offspring of hatchery females in three of four comparisons (two streams and 2 years of stocking). Having an entire naturalized genome, not just a naturalized mother, was important for survival over the first winter. Naturalized offspring outperformed all others in survival to age 1+ and hybrids had reduced, but intermediate, survival relative to the two pure crosses. Averaging over years and streams, survival relative to naturalized offspring was 0.59 for hybrids with naturalized females, 0.37 for the reciprocal hybrids, and 0.21 for hatchery offspring. Our results indicate that naturalized rainbow trout are better adapted to the conditions of Minnesota's tributaries to Lake Superior so that they outperform the hatchery-propagated strain in the same manner that many native populations of salmonids outperform hatchery or transplanted fish. Continued stocking of the hatchery fish may conflict with a management goal of sustaining the naturalized populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crosses, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Fisheries*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Great Lakes Region
  • Inbreeding
  • Male
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss / genetics*
  • Rivers
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Survival Rate