Extent and scale of local adaptation in salmonid fishes: review and meta-analysis

Heredity (Edinb). 2011 Mar;106(3):404-20. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2010.167. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


What is the extent and scale of local adaptation (LA)? How quickly does LA arise? And what is its underlying molecular basis? Our review and meta-analysis on salmonid fishes estimates the frequency of LA to be ∼55-70%, with local populations having a 1.2 times average fitness advantage relative to foreign populations or to their performance in new environments. Salmonid LA is evident at a variety of spatial scales (for example, few km to>1000 km) and can manifest itself quickly (6-30 generations). As the geographic scale between populations increases, LA is generally more frequent and stronger. Yet the extent of LA in salmonids does not appear to differ from that in other assessed taxa. Moreover, the frequency with which foreign salmonid populations outperform local populations (∼23-35%) suggests that drift, gene flow and plasticity often limit or mediate LA. The relatively few studies based on candidate gene and genomewide analyses have identified footprints of selection at both small and large geographical scales, likely reflecting the specific functional properties of loci and the associated selection regimes (for example, local niche partitioning, pathogens, parasites, photoperiodicity and seasonal timing). The molecular basis of LA in salmonids is still largely unknown, but differential expression at the same few genes is implicated in the convergent evolution of certain phenotypes. Collectively, future research will benefit from an integration of classical and molecular approaches to understand: (i) species differences and how they originate, (ii) variation in adaptation across scales, life stages, population sizes and environmental gradients, and (iii) evolutionary responses to human activities.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological* / genetics
  • Animals
  • Phenotype
  • Salmonidae / genetics*