TitleGenetic adaptation to captivity can occur in a single generation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsChristie, MR, Marine, ML, French, RA, Blouin, M
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Captive breeding programs are widely used for the conservation and restoration of threatened and endangered species. Nevertheless, captive-born individuals frequently have reduced fitness when reintroduced into the wild. The mechanism for these fitness declines has remained elusive, but hypotheses include environmental effects of captive rearing, inbreeding among close relatives, relaxed natural selection, and unintentional domestication selection (adaptation to captivity). We used a multigenerational pedigree analysis to demonstrate that domestication selection can explain the precipitous decline in fitness observed in hatchery steelhead released into the Hood River in Oregon. After returning from the ocean, wild-born and first-generation hatchery fish were used as broodstock in the hatchery, and their offspring were released into the wild as smolts. First-generation hatchery fish had nearly double the lifetime reproductive success (measured as the number of returning adult offspring) when spawned in captivity compared with wild fish spawned under identical conditions, which is a clear demonstration of adaptation to captivity. We also documented a tradeoff among the wild-born broodstock: Those with the greatest fitness in a captive environment produced offspring that performed the worst in the wild. Specifically, captive-born individuals with five (the median) or more returning siblings (i.e., offspring of successful broodstock) averaged 0.62 returning offspring in the wild, whereas captive-born individuals with less than five siblings averaged 2.05 returning offspring in the wild. These results demonstrate that a single generation in captivity can result in a substantial response to selection on traits that are beneficial in captivity but severely maladaptive in the wild.

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