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10 March 2022 Detecting Rainbow Trout Introgression in Bonneville Cutthroat Trout of the Bear River Basin Using Field-Based Phenotypic Characteristics
Kevin A. Meyer, Ryan W. Hillyard, Matthew R. Campbell
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Cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii × rainbow trout O. mykiss hybrids (hereafter hybrids) are difficult to visually distinguish from parental taxa, yet identifying phenotypic traits to separate hybrids from cutthroat trout is needed for conservation and management purposes. We compared phenotypic characteristics against genotype (using 34 species-diagnostic single nucleotide polymorphism loci) for 316 Bonneville cutthroat trout O. clarkii utah, rainbow trout and hybrids in Bear River tributaries. Our phenotypic classifications of fish were 91% accurate for Bonneville cutthroat trout but only 68% accurate for rainbow trout and hybrids combined. Classification errors based on phenotype were observed between parental taxa and hybrids but not between cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. The most useful phenotypic traits for distinguishing Bonneville cutthroat trout from hybrids were the absence of a white leading edge on the pelvic fin, the presence of fewer than 7 spots on the top of the head, and the presence of a prominent throat slash. The degree of hybridization in individual hybrids was associated with the number of spots on the top of their head. However, 16% of >F1 hybrids with a higher proportion of cutthroat trout ancestry and 6% of F1 hybrids exhibited all the phenotypic characteristics of cutthroat trout. The ability to visually detect admixture in hybrids was not related to fish length but was related to admixture level, with logistic regression model results predicting that, for individual hybrids when the proportion of alleles assigned to rainbow trout was >18% (95% CI, 11% to 26%), biologists were more than 50% likely to visually detect O. mykiss traits. While we encourage the use of genetic-based assessments for Bonneville cutthroat trout populations when feasible, our results suggest that phenotypic traits can assist in identifying hybridized populations and hybrid individuals, which will benefit the management and conservation of this species. However, our study included Bonneville cutthroat trout from only the Bear River basin, and further work is needed from the southern portion of the subspecies' range to support or refute our findings.

© 2022
Kevin A. Meyer, Ryan W. Hillyard, and Matthew R. Campbell "Detecting Rainbow Trout Introgression in Bonneville Cutthroat Trout of the Bear River Basin Using Field-Based Phenotypic Characteristics," Western North American Naturalist 82(1), 117-127, (10 March 2022).
Received: 11 March 2021; Accepted: 9 September 2021; Published: 10 March 2022
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