, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 785-794
Date: 20 Mar 2009

Reduced anti-predator responses in multi-generational hybrids of farmed and wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.)

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Cultured organisms undergo genetically-based behavioural changes that may reduce their ability to survive in the wild. This has raised concerns that interbreeding between escaped cultured and wild organisms will generate hybrids exhibiting maladaptive behaviours which may ultimately reduce the fitness of the wild counterpart. We compared anti-predator responses in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) from two wild North American populations, the major farmed strain used in regional aquaculture, and their wild-farmed hybrids (F1, F2, and wild backcross). Anti-predator responses of fry (age 0+ parr) were measured under common environmental conditions, using a model of a natural predator (belted kingfisher, Ceryle alcyon). Farmed fry exhibited significantly reduced anti-predator responses relative to fry from both wild populations. The anti-predator responses of wild-farmed hybrid fry were intermediate to those of the parental populations (pure farmed or wild). The magnitude by which wild-farmed hybrids differed in anti-predator responses from pure wild fish also depended on the wild population. These results suggest that: (1) the observed behavioural differences have a genetic basis; (2) wild-farmed hybrids have, on average, reduced anti-predator responses relative to wild fish; and that (3) the effects of wild-farmed interbreeding on anti-predator responses will differ between wild populations. Our study is consistent with the general hypothesis that continual farmed-wild interbreeding may have detrimental effects on the fitness of wild organisms.