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Concept: Chum salmon


Diphyllobothriosis is reemerging because of global importation and increased popularity of eating raw fish. We detected Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense plerocercoids in the musculature of wild pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) from Alaska, USA. Therefore, salmon from the American and Asian Pacific coasts and elsewhere pose potential dangers for persons who eat these fish raw.

Concepts: United States, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Pacific Ocean, Canada, North America, Chum salmon, Pink salmon


BACKGROUND: Meiotic maps are a key tool for comparative genomics and association mapping studies. Next-generation sequencing and genotyping by sequencing are speeding the processes of SNP discovery and the development of new genetic tools, including meiotic maps for numerous species. Currently there are limited genetic resources for sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka. We develop the first dense meiotic map for sockeye salmon using a combination of novel SNPs found in restriction site associated DNA (RAD tags) and SNPs available from existing expressed sequence tag (EST) based assays. RESULTS: We discovered and genotyped putative SNPs in 3,430 RAD tags. We removed paralogous sequence variants leaving 1,672 SNPs; these were combined with 53 EST-based SNP genotypes for linkage mapping. The map contained 29 male and female linkage groups, consistent with the haploid chromosome number expected for sockeye salmon. The female map contains 1,057 loci spanning 4,896 cM, and the male map contains 1,118 loci spanning 4,220 cM. Regions of conservation with rainbow trout and synteny between the RAD based rainbow trout map and the sockeye salmon map were established. CONCLUSIONS: Using RAD sequencing and EST-based SNP assays we successfully generated the first high density linkage map for sockeye salmon.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Chromosome, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Chum salmon, Sockeye salmon


Noninvasive genetic sampling is an important tool in wildlife ecology and management, typically relying on hair snaring or scat sampling techniques, but hair snaring is labor and cost intensive, and scats yield relatively low quality DNA. New approaches utilizing environmental DNA (eDNA) may provide supplementary, cost-effective tools for noninvasive genetic sampling. We tested whether eDNA from residual saliva on partially-consumed Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) carcasses might yield suitable DNA quality for noninvasive monitoring of brown bears (Ursus arctos). We compared the efficiency of monitoring brown bear populations using both fecal DNA and salivary eDNA collected from partially-consumed salmon carcasses in Southeast Alaska. We swabbed a range of tissue types from 156 partially-consumed salmon carcasses from a midseason run of lakeshore-spawning sockeye (O. nerka) and a late season run of stream-spawning chum (O. keta) salmon in 2014. We also swabbed a total of 272 scats from the same locations. Saliva swabs collected from the braincases of salmon had the best amplification rate, followed by swabs taken from individual bite holes. Saliva collected from salmon carcasses identified unique individuals more quickly and required much less labor to locate than scat samples. Salmon carcass swabbing is a promising method to aid in efficient and affordable monitoring of bear populations, and suggests that the swabbing of food remains or consumed baits from other animals may be an additional cost-effective and valuable tool in the study of the ecology and population biology of many elusive and/or wide-ranging species.

Concepts: Biology, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Bear, Chum salmon, Sockeye salmon, Brown Bear, Bears


Observational data from the past century have highlighted the importance of interdecadal modes of variability in fish population dynamics, but how these patterns of variation fit into a broader temporal and spatial context remains largely unknown. We analyzed time series of stable nitrogen isotopes from the sediments of 20 sockeye salmon nursery lakes across western Alaska to characterize temporal and spatial patterns in salmon abundance over the past ∼500 y. Although some stocks varied on interdecadal time scales (30- to 80-y cycles), centennial-scale variation, undetectable in modern-day catch records and survey data, has dominated salmon population dynamics over the past 500 y. Before 1900, variation in abundance was clearly not synchronous among stocks, and the only temporal signal common to lake sediment records from this region was the onset of commercial fishing in the late 1800s. Thus, historical changes in climate did not synchronize stock dynamics over centennial time scales, emphasizing that ecosystem complexity can produce a diversity of ecological responses to regional climate forcing. Our results show that marine fish populations may alternate between naturally driven periods of high and low abundance over time scales of decades to centuries and suggest that management models that assume time-invariant productivity or carrying capacity parameters may be poor representations of the biological reality in these systems.

Concepts: Population, Fish, Ecology, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Carrying capacity, Chum salmon, Sockeye salmon


It is well known that current equilibrium-based models fall short as predictive descriptions of natural ecosystems, and particularly of fisheries systems that exhibit nonlinear dynamics. For example, model parameters assumed to be fixed constants may actually vary in time, models may fit well to existing data but lack out-of-sample predictive skill, and key driving variables may be misidentified due to transient (mirage) correlations that are common in nonlinear systems. With these frailties, it is somewhat surprising that static equilibrium models continue to be widely used. Here, we examine empirical dynamic modeling (EDM) as an alternative to imposed model equations and that accommodates both nonequilibrium dynamics and nonlinearity. Using time series from nine stocks of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) from the Fraser River system in British Columbia, Canada, we perform, for the the first time to our knowledge, real-data comparison of contemporary fisheries models with equivalent EDM formulations that explicitly use spawning stock and environmental variables to forecast recruitment. We find that EDM models produce more accurate and precise forecasts, and unlike extensions of the classic Ricker spawner-recruit equation, they show significant improvements when environmental factors are included. Our analysis demonstrates the strategic utility of EDM for incorporating environmental influences into fisheries forecasts and, more generally, for providing insight into how environmental factors can operate in forecast models, thus paving the way for equation-free mechanistic forecasting to be applied in management contexts.

Concepts: Future, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Forecasting, Chum salmon, Sockeye salmon, Nonlinear system, Linear system


Study of parallel (or convergent) phenotypic evolution can provide important insights into processes driving sympatric, ecologically-mediated divergence and speciation, as ecotype pairs may provide a biological replicate of the underlying signals and mechanisms. Here, we provide evidence for a selective sweep creating an island of divergence associated with reproductive behavior in sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), identifying a series of linked single nucleotide polymorphisms across a ~22,733 basepair region spanning the leucine-rich repeat-containing protein 9 gene exhibiting signatures of divergent selection associated with stream- and shore-spawning in both anadromous and resident forms across their pan-Pacific distribution. This divergence likely occurred ~3.8 Mya (95% HPD = 2.1-6.03 Mya), after sockeye separated from pink (O. gorbuscha) and chum (O. keta) salmon, but prior to the Pleistocene glaciations. Our results suggest recurrent evolution of reproductive ecotypes across the native range of O. nerka is at least partially associated with divergent selection of pre-existing genetic variation within or linked to this region. As sockeye salmon are unique among Pacific salmonids in their flexibility to spawn in lake-shore benthic environments, this region provides great promise for continued investigation of the genomic basis of O. nerka life history evolution, and, more broadly, for increasing our understanding of the heritable basis of adaptation of complex traits in novel environments.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Chum salmon, Sockeye salmon


Migratory salmon transit estuary habitats on their way out to the ocean but this phase of their life cycle is more poorly understood than other phases. The estuaries of large river systems in particular may support many populations and several species of salmon that originate from throughout the upstream river. The Skeena River of British Columbia, Canada, is a large river system with high salmon population- and species-level diversity. The estuary of the Skeena River is under pressure from industrial development, with two gas liquefaction terminals and a potash loading facility in various stages of environmental review processes, providing motivation for understanding the usage of the estuary by juvenile salmon. We conducted a juvenile salmonid sampling program throughout the Skeena River estuary in 2007 and 2013 to investigate the spatial and temporal distribution of different species and populations of salmon. We captured six species of juvenile anadromous salmonids throughout the estuary in both years, and found that areas proposed for development support some of the highest abundances of some species of salmon. Specifically, the highest abundances of sockeye (both years), Chinook in 2007, and coho salmon in 2013 were captured in areas proposed for development. For example, juvenile sockeye salmon were 2-8 times more abundant in the proposed development areas. Genetic stock assignment demonstrated that the Chinook salmon and most of the sockeye salmon that were captured originated from throughout the Skeena watershed, while some sockeye salmon came from the Nass, Stikine, Southeast Alaska, and coastal systems on the northern and central coasts of British Columbia. These fish support extensive commercial, recreational, and First Nations fisheries throughout the Skeena River and beyond. Our results demonstrate that estuary habitats integrate species and population diversity of salmon, and that if proposed development negatively affects the salmon populations that use the estuary, then numerous fisheries would also be negatively affected.

Concepts: Salmon, Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus, Salmonidae, Columbia River, British Columbia, Chum salmon, Coho salmon


Adult coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) prematurely die when they return from the ocean to spawn in urban watersheds throughout northwestern North America. The available evidence suggests the annual mortality events are caused by toxic stormwater runoff. The underlying pathophysiology of the urban spawner mortality syndrome is not known, and it is unclear whether closely related species of Pacific salmon are similarly at risk. The present study co-exposed adult coho and chum (O. keta) salmon to runoff from a high traffic volume urban arterial roadway. The spawners were monitored for the familiar symptoms of the mortality syndrome, including surface swimming, loss of orientation, and loss of equilibrium. Moreover, the hematology of both species was profiled by measuring arterial pH, blood gases, lactate, plasma electrolytes, hematocrit, and glucose. Adult coho developed behavioral symptoms within a few hours of exposure to stormwater. Various measured hematological parameters were significantly altered compared to coho controls, indicating a blood acidosis and ionoregulatory disturbance. By contrast, runoff-exposed chum spawners showed essentially no indications of the mortality syndrome, and measured blood hematological parameters were similar to unexposed chum controls. We conclude that contaminant(s) in urban runoff are the likely cause of the disruption of ion balance and pH in coho but not chum salmon. Among the thousands of chemicals in stormwater, future forensic analyses should focus on the gill or cardiovascular system of coho salmon. Because of their distinctive sensitivity to urban runoff, adult coho remain an important vertebrate indicator species for degraded water quality in freshwater habitats under pressure from human population growth and urbanization.

Concepts: Blood, Water, Water pollution, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Columbia River, Chum salmon, Coho salmon


As climate change increases maximal water temperatures, behavioural thermoregulation may be crucial for the persistence of coldwater fishes, such as salmonids. Although myriad studies have documented behavioural thermoregulation in southern populations of salmonids, few if any have explored this phenomenon in northern populations, which are less likely to have an evolutionary history of heat stress, yet are predicted to experience substantial warming. Here, we treated a rare heat wave as a natural experiment to test whether wild sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) at the northern extent of their primary range (60° latitude) can thermoregulate in response to abnormally high thermal conditions. We tagged adult sockeye salmon with temperature loggers as they staged in a lake epilimnion prior to spawning in small cold streams (n = 40 recovered loggers). As lake surface temperatures warmed to physiologically suboptimal levels (15-20°C), sockeye salmon thermoregulated by moving to tributary plumes or the lake metalimnion. A regression of fish body temperature against lake surface temperature indicated that fish moved to cooler waters when the epilimnion temperature exceeded ~12°C. A bioenergetics model suggested that the observed behaviour reduced daily metabolic costs by as much as ~50% during the warmest conditions (18-20°C). These results provide rare evidence of cool-seeking thermoregulation at the poleward extent of a species range, emphasizing the potential ubiquity of maximal temperature constraints and the functional significance of thermal heterogeneity for buffering poikilotherms from climate change.

Concepts: Thermoregulation, Temperature, Hyperthermia, Heat, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Chum salmon, Sockeye salmon


The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in March 1989 in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and was one of the worst environmental disasters on record in the United States. Despite long-term data collection over the nearly three decades since the spill, tremendous uncertainty remains as to how significantly the spill affected fishery resources. Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) and some wild Pacific salmon populations (Oncorhynchus spp.) in Prince William Sound declined in the early 1990s, and have not returned to the population sizes observed in the 1980s. Discerning if, or how much of, this decline resulted from the oil spill has been difficult because a number of other physical and ecological drivers are confounded temporally with the spill; some of these drivers include environmental variability or changing climate regimes, increased production of hatchery salmon in the region, and increases in populations of potential predators. Using data pre- and post-spill, we applied time-series methods to evaluate support for whether and how herring and salmon productivity has been affected by each of five drivers: (1) density dependence, (2) the EVOS event, (3) changing environmental conditions, (4) interspecific competition on juvenile fish, and (5) predation and competition from adult fish or, in the case of herring, humpback whales. Our results showed support for intraspecific density-dependent effects in herring, sockeye, and Chinook salmon, with little overall support for an oil spill effect. Of the salmon species, the largest driver was the negative impact of adult pink salmon returns on sockeye salmon productivity. Herring productivity was most strongly affected by changing environmental conditions; specifically, freshwater discharge into the Gulf of Alaska was linked to a series of recruitment failures-before, during, and after EVOS. These results highlight the need to better understand long terms impacts of pink salmon on food webs, as well as the interactions between nearshore species and freshwater inputs, particularly as they relate to climate change and increasing water temperatures.

Concepts: Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Alaska, Pacific Ocean, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chum salmon, Pink salmon, Prince William Sound