Hatchery salmon are genetically different from wild-born salmon according to the findings of a new study published in the Nature Communications journal. It doesn’t take more than one generation for hatchery salmon to pass on the drastically modified genetic material to their offspring.
Some argue that what has been only suspected until now could further deplete the population numbers of wild-born salmon. Wild salmon is already in danger. Bringing hatchery salmon in the breeding grounds of wild salmon could lead to a disease hub completed by even lower breeding rates.
However, the research team from the Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife argues to the contrary. Hatchery salmon are genetically different from wild-born salmon. Nonetheless, the 700 genetic variations identified by the research team are crucial to understanding how these modified genetic material could prove beneficial to wild-born salmon.
Hundreds of genetic variations may inflict dramatic changes in wildlife salmon populations if the consequences aren’t clearly understood. A hatchery is a protected space that offers salmon all the necessary conditions to develop.
From feeding to controlled environmental conditions to improved breeding conditions, everything is supervised by a team. If hatchery salmon raised in this artificial environment is released in the wild, the chances are it will not survive for too long. Particularly since the hundreds of genetic variations are passed to the immediately following generation.
The research team behind the study looked specifically at steelhead trout salmon. Comparing hatchery steelhead trout salmon with their wild relatives, the researchers identified 700 genetic variations. Most of them impact reproduction and survival rates. In hatcheries, steelhead trout salmon reproduce at incredible rates. When released in the wild they have a harder time breeding than wild steelhead trout salmon.
Mark Christie who is the lead author of the study stated that:
“We observed that a large number of genes were involved in pathways related to wound healing, immunity and metabolism, and this is consistent with the idea that the earliest stages of domestication may involve adapting to highly crowded conditions”.
Michael Blouin, a co-author on the study explained that the significant differences between wild-born salmon and hatchery salmon may impact their survival rates in light of the new discoveries.
Nonetheless, while hatchery salmon are genetically different from wild-born salmon, the difference in genetic material may shed more light on how to best adapt conditions for the survival of salmon generally.
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