Quantifying heritable variation in fitness-related traits of wild, farmed and hybrid Atlantic salmon families in a wild river environment

T. E. Reed*, P. Prodöhl, R. Hynes, T. Cross, A. Ferguson, P. McGinnity

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
227 Downloads (Pure)


Farmed fish are typically genetically different from wild conspecifics. Escapees from fish farms may contribute one-way gene flow from farm to wild gene pools, which can depress population productivity, dilute local adaptations and disrupt coadapted gene complexes. Here, we reanalyse data from two experiments (McGinnity et al., 1997, 2003) where performance of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) progeny originating from experimental crosses between farm and wild parents (in three different cohorts) were measured in a natural stream under common garden conditions. Previous published analyses focussed on group-level differences but did not account for pedigree structure, as we do here using modern mixed-effect models. Offspring with one or two farm parents exhibited poorer survival in their first and second year of life compared with those with two wild parents and these group-level inferences were robust to excluding outlier families. Variation in performance among farm, hybrid and wild families was generally similar in magnitude. Farm offspring were generally larger at all life stages examined than wild offspring, but the differences were moderate (5–20%) and similar in magnitude in the wild versus hatchery environments. Quantitative genetic analyses conducted using a Bayesian framework revealed moderate heritability in juvenile fork length and mass and positive genetic correlations (>0.85) between these morphological traits. Our study confirms (using more rigorous statistical techniques) previous studies showing that offspring of wild fish invariably have higher fitness and contributes fresh insights into family-level variation in performance of farm, wild and hybrid Atlantic salmon families in the wild. It also adds to a small, but growing, number of studies that estimate key evolutionary parameters in wild salmonid populations. Such information is vital in modelling the impacts of introgression by escaped farm salmon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-184
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Early online date29 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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