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Ecology and Evolution

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Non-native species may be introduced either intentionally or unintentionally, and their impact can range from benign to highly disruptive. Non-native salmonids were introduced into Lake Ontario, Canada, to provide recreational fishing opportunities; however, the establishment of those species has been proposed as a significant barrier to the reintroduction of native Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) due to intense interspecific competition. In this study, we compared population differences of Atlantic salmon in transcriptome response to interspecific competition. We reared Atlantic salmon from two populations (LaHave River and Sebago Lake) with fish of each of three non-native salmonids (Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, rainbow trout O. mykiss, and brown trout S. trutta) in artificial streams. We used RNA-seq to assess transcriptome differences between the Atlantic salmon populations and the responses of these populations to the interspecific competition treatments after 10 months of competition in the stream tanks. We found that population differences in gene expression were generally greater than the effects of interspecific competition. Interestingly, we found that the two Atlantic salmon populations exhibited similar responses to interspecific competition based on functional gene ontologies, but the specific genes within those ontologies were different. Our transcriptome analyses suggest that the most stressful competitor (as measured by the highest number of differentially expressed genes) differs between the two study populations. Our transcriptome characterization highlights the importance of source population selection for conservation applications, as organisms with different evolutionary histories can possess different transcriptional responses to the same biotic stressors. The results also indicate that generalized predictions of the response of native species to interactions with introduced species may not be appropriate without incorporating potential population-specific response to introduced species.




Funding was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to DDH (Discovery Grant and Strategic Project Grant).