Juvenile dispersal affects straying behaviors of adults in a migratory population

Ecology. 2012 Apr;93(4):733-40. doi: 10.1890/11-1009.1.


The resilience of organisms to large-scale environmental and climatic change depends, in part, upon the ability to colonize and occupy new habitats. While previous efforts to describe homing, or natal site fidelity, of migratory organisms have been hindered by the confounding effects of fragmented landscapes and management practices, realistic conservation efforts must include considerations of the behavioral diversity represented by animal movements and dispersal. Herein, we quantify straying away from natal origins by adult chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in a wild population that inhabits a pristine wilderness basin. Using natural isotopic signatures (7Sr/86Sr) to reconstruct the migratory behaviors of unhandled individuals over their entire life cycle, we identified ecological and behavioral factors influencing the propensity to stray. Our results indicate that natal site fidelity is scale dependent, ranging from 55% at -1-km distances to 87% at longer (> 10-km scale) distances, and juvenile dispersal and sex highly influence straying occurrence. These findings lend support for the conservation of behavioral diversity for population persistence, and we propose straying as a mechanism for maintaining genetic diversity at low population densities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Legislation as Topic
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Salmon / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Water / chemistry


  • Water