11 April 2017
Gene flow from domesticated escapes alters the life history of wild Atlantic salmon [Nature Ecology & Evolution]
Keywords : conservation biology, genetic hybridization
Interbreeding between domesticated and wild animals occurs in several species. This gene flow has long been anticipated to induce genetic changes in life-history traits of wild populations, thereby influencing population dynamics and viability. Here, we show that individuals with high levels of introgression (domesticated ancestry) have altered age and size at maturation in 62 wild Atlantic salmon Salmo salar populations, including seven ancestral populations to breeding lines of the domesticated salmon. This study documents widespread changes to life-history traits in wild animal populations following gene flow from selectively bred, domesticated conspecifics. The continued high abundance of escaped, domesticated Atlantic salmon thus threatens wild Atlantic salmon populations by inducing genetic changes in fitness-related traits. Our results represent key evidence and a timely warning concerning the potential ecological impacts of the globally increasing use of domesticated animals.