Human Actions Are Impacting Wild Salmon’s Ability To Evolve

Source: Davis

Photo: Dan Cook/USFWS/Wikimedia Commons


Once spring-run chinook salmon disappear, they are not likely to re-emerge, indicates genetic analysis of the revered wild fish in a study led by the University of California, Davis. Prompt conservation action could preserve spring-run chinook, as well as their evolutionary potential.

The study, published online today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, illustrates that when human actions alter the characteristics, or “phenotypes,” of , these changes can become irreversible. This can have long-term evolutionary consequences because natural phenotypic variation buffers species from environmental changes and is a fundamental prerequisite for future evolution.

“If you lose the spring-run gene, you could potentially lose spring-run  forever,” said lead author Tasha Thompson, a UC Davis doctoral candidate in the lab of UC Davis Professor Michael R. Miller in the Department of Animal Science. “You can’t just assume the potential to recover them will persist in fall-run salmon populations.”

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Photo: Dan Cook/USFWS/Wikimedia Commons

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