Genetic quality and offspring performance in Chinook salmon: implications for supportive breeding

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Conservation Genetics





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supportive breeding, Chinook salmon, genetic quality, major histocompatibility complex, mate choice, good genes, compatible genes


Each year salmon and other fishes are caught and used for supportive breeding programs that attempt to augment natural populations that are threatened with extinction. These programs typically mate individuals randomly and as such they overlook the importance of genetic quality to offspring fitness and ultimately to ensuring population health. Here, we use Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and a fully crossed quantitative genetic breeding design to partition genetic variance in offspring performance (growth and survival) to additive and non-additive genetic effects as well as maternal effects. We show that these three effects contribute about equally to the variation in survival, but only non-additive genetic and maternal effects contribute to variation in growth. Some of the genetic effects could be assigned to variation at the class IIB locus of the major histocompatibility complex, but the maternal effects were not associated with egg size and we found no relationship between dam phenotypic measures and offspring survival or growth. We also found no relationship between sire sexually selected characters and offspring survival or growth, which is inconsistent with a "good genes" hypothesis. Finally, we show that incorporation of genetic quality into supportive breeding programs can increase offspring growth or survival by between 3% and 19% during the endogenous feeding stage alone, and projections to adulthood suggest that survivorship could be over four fold higher.