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An experimental examination of behavioural isolation between sockeye salmon and kokanee, the anadromous and non-anadromous forms of Oncorhynchus nerka Foote, Christopher J.


The genetic relationship of anadromous (sockeye salmon) and non-anadromous (kokanee) Oncorhynchus nerka was examined in conjunction with the breeding behaviour of the two forms to determine: (1) if there is evidence of genetic divergence between the forms where they spawn sympatrically; (2) if such divergence is associated with significant premating isolation between the forms and; (3) if premating isolation results directly from the size difference between the forms (sockeye are much larger than kokanee at maturity). Both sexes exhibit spawning territoriality; females establish and defend particular nest sites until death or displacement, males defend access to specific females from other males until the female has spawned out, they are displaced, or leave to compete for additional mates. Size and prior access to resources (mates and/or specific areas) are significant factors in intrasexual aggression in both sexes, with size the major factor in males and prior access the major factor in females. Females accompanied by males larger than themselves lose weight at a faster rate than those accompanied by males smaller than themselves. Weight loss is related to egg loss, indicating females spawn at a faster rate when accompanied by large males. Male mate preference depends on the size of the male. Males of various sizes prefer females of their own size or larger over females smaller than themselves. In contrast, all sizes of males tested demonstrated no preference between females of their own size and those larger. Large males, which have the widest range of potential mates (because of male intrasexual competition and female choice), are the most selective and small males, which have the narrowest range of potential mates, are the least selective. There were significant differences in allele frequencies between sympatrically spawning sockeye and kokanee. However, there were no consistent differences between sockeye and kokanee at any of five polymorphic loci examined. The extent of genetic differentiation between sympatric forms appears to be less than that between neighbouring populations of the same form, judging from an examination of allele frequencies and/or allele compositions. There was extensive assortative mating by form between sockeye and kokanee, which was not totally accounted for by the large size difference. In the two systems examined, males preferred to mate with females of their own form. In sockeye, such preferences are expected because of the size difference between forms. In kokanee, such preferences are not expected based on size alone, suggesting the evolution of premating isolating mechanisms. The degree of premating isolation was positively correlated with the extent of genetic divergence between sympatric forms. The results of this study are related to existing models of sympatric speciation to hypothesize that sockeye and kokanee have diverged in sympatry. The probable differences in selection between the marine and freshwater environments coupled with the assortative mating resulting from their size difference may have caused subsequent genetic divergence. This divergence appears to have been followed by the evolution of premating isolation.

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