Thermal plasticity in farmed, wild and hybrid Atlantic salmon during early development: Has domestication caused divergence in low temperature tolerance?
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Background: In the past three decades, millions of domesticated Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. have escaped from farms into the wild. Their offspring display reduced survival in the natural environment, which demonstrates that gene-flow is likely to have a negative effect on wild populations. However, inter-population differences in introgression of farmed salmon have been observed, and the underlying ecological mechanisms remain enigmatic. We hypothesised that domestication-driven divergence in tolerance to low temperatures during early development may contribute to lower survival of farmed salmon offspring in the wild, which in turn, may influence patterns of introgression among populations exposed to different temperature regimes. We reared the offspring of 35 families of wild, farmed and hybrid origin at three temperatures (3.9, 5.6 and 12 °C) from the onset of exogenous feeding and throughout their first summer. Thermal reaction norms for growth and survival were investigated along the gradient.
Results: The main results of this study, which is based upon the analysis of juvenile salmon from five wild strains, two farmed strains and two hybrid strains, can be summarised as; (i) salmon of all origins were able to successfully initiate feeding at all temperatures and similar survival reaction norms were detected in all strains across the temperature gradient; (ii) deviating growth reaction norms were detected between strains, although this result was most likely due to an overall lack of growth in the lower temperature treatments.
Conclusions: This study revealed no evidence of domesticated-driven divergence in low temperature tolerance in Atlantic salmon during early development. Although the potential interaction between low temperature and other river-specific factors cannot be excluded, our results indicate that the reduced survival of farmed offspring in the wild is not explained by farmed salmon displaying impaired abilities to initiate feeding at low temperatures. We therefore suggest that the observed inter-population patterns of introgression are not low-temperature driven and that other ecological or biological factors may explain why detection of farmed salmon in wild rivers is not synonymous with introgression. In general, our results support the literature indicating that phenotypic plasticity instead of thermal adaption has been selected for in Atlantic salmon.