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Potential fitness benefits of the half-pounder life history in Klamath River steelhead

January 1, 2014

Steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss from several of the world's rivers display the half-pounder life history, a variant characterized by an amphidromous (and, less often, anadromous) return to freshwater in the year of initial ocean entry. We evaluated factors related to expression of the half-pounder life history in wild steelhead from the lower Klamath River basin, California. We also evaluated fitness consequences of the half-pounder phenotype using a simple life history model that was parameterized with our empirical data and outputs from a regional survival equation. The incidence of the half-pounder life history differed among subbasins of origin and smolt ages. Precocious maturation occurred in approximately 8% of half-pounders and was best predicted by individual length in freshwater preceding ocean entry. Adult steelhead of the half-pounder phenotype were smaller and less fecund at age than adult steelhead of the alternative (ocean contingent) phenotype. However, our data suggest that fish of the half-pounder phenotype are more likely to spawn repeatedly than are fish of the ocean contingent phenotype. Models predicted that if lifetime survivorship were equal between phenotypes, the fitness of the half-pounder phenotype would be 17–28% lower than that of the ocean contingent phenotype. To meet the condition of equal fitness between phenotypes would require that first-year ocean survival be 21–40% higher among half-pounders in freshwater than among their cohorts at sea. We concluded that continued expression of the half-pounder phenotype is favored by precocious maturation and increased survival relative to that of the ocean contingent phenotype.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Potential fitness benefits of the half-pounder life history in Klamath River steelhead
DOI 10.1080/00028487.2014.892536
Authors Brian W. Hodge, Peggy Wilzbach, Walter G. Duffy
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Series Number
Index ID 70191613
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle

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