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Conservation and Distribution of Genetic Variation in a Polytypic Species, the Cutthroat Trout

Fred W. Allendorf and Robb F. Leary
Conservation Biology
Vol. 2, No. 2 (Jun., 1988), pp. 170-184
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2386103
Page Count: 15
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Conservation and Distribution of Genetic Variation in a Polytypic Species, the Cutthroat Trout
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Abstract

The cutthroat trout (Salmo clarki) presents a series of unusual and difficult problems in conservation biology. As many as 16 subspecies have been recognized in the recent literature. The genetic distance between subspecies based upon 46 enzyme loci ranges from that usually seen between congeneric species to virtual genetic identity. Subspecies from the western portion of the range of the cutthroat trout are genetically more similar to rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) than they are to the other subspecies of cutthroat trout. In addition, much of the genetic variation within the west-slope cutthroat trout (S. c. lewisi) results from alleles found in only one or two local populations, but they often occur at high frequencies in those populations. Thus, preserving the genetic variation in westslope cutthroat trout entails preserving as many local populations as possible. Captive populations of cutthroat trout present a series of opportunities and genetic problems. A number of management agencies are using captive populations to supplement and reestablish natural populations. Basic genetic principles must be understood and followed in establishing and maintaining captive populations. We describe examples of unsuccessful and successful efforts by management agencies to develop captive populations. The greatest danger to the conservation of the cutthroat trout is introgressive hybridization among subspecies and with rainbow trout. Several factors make salmonid fishes especially susceptible to problems associated with introgressive hybridization. We conclude that biochemical analysis provides a more reliable and informative means of detecting interbreeding than morphological characters. Interbreeding between westslope and Yellowstone cutthroat trout and non-native Salmo appears to be common and widespread throughout the natural range of these subspecies.

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