Morphological, Physiological, and Genetic Techniques for Improving Field Identification of Steelhead, Coastal Cutthroat Trout, and Hybrid Smolts

Benjamen M. Kennedy, Jason Baumsteiger, William L. Gale, William R. Ardren, Kenneth G. Ostrand
2009 Marine and Coastal Fisheries  
In streams with sympatric populations of steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss and coastal cutthroat trout O. clarkii clarkii (hereafter, cutthroat trout), life history descriptions and smolt production estimates may be hampered by misclassification of hybrids as steelhead or cutthroat trout. Additionally, important morphological and physiological differences between hybrid and non-hybird smolts are often unknown. Therefore, we assessed field classification and created classification models to quantify
more » ... and reduce misclassification rates among migrating steelhead, cutthroat trout, and hybrid smolts. Field misclassifications of smolts with steelhead or cutthroat trout genotypes were low (1% and 2%, respectively). However, field misclassification of fish with hybrid genotypes was high, with 11% of the hybrids being misclassified as steelhead and 42% of the hybrids being misclassified as cutthroat trout. Hybrid smolts were larger, had lower gill Na þ , K þ -ATPase activities, and lower condition factors than steelhead but were similar to cutthroat trout smolts in these same measurements. Additionally, statistical classification analyses using morphological traits including subterminal jaw slash intensity, hyoid teeth presence, maxillary length, breaks of pigment along outer margin of adipose fin, condition factor, and migration date improved classification error rates of hybrids from 53% to 21%. In systems with sympatric populations of steelhead and cutthroat trout, we recommend a thorough evaluation of field-based identification methods with genetic techniques to assess the effectiveness of field-based classification in addition to examining important life history differences among steelhead, cutthroat trout, and their hybrids.
doi:10.1577/c08-006.1 fatcat:t6u7af7c3rdhphof5thdon43bm