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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Jul 7;275(1642):1571-5. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0251.

Genetic variation in threshold reaction norms for alternative reproductive tactics in male Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 4J1.


Alternative reproductive tactics may be a product of adaptive phenotypic plasticity, such that discontinuous variation in life history depends on both the genotype and the environment. Phenotypes that fall below a genetically determined threshold adopt one tactic, while those exceeding the threshold adopt the alternative tactic. We report evidence of genetic variability in maturation thresholds for male Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) that mature either as large (more than 1 kg) anadromous males or as small (10-150 g) parr. Using a common-garden experimental protocol, we find that the growth rate at which the sneaker parr phenotype is expressed differs among pure- and mixed-population crosses. Maturation thresholds of hybrids were intermediate to those of pure crosses, consistent with the hypothesis that the life-history switch points are heritable. Our work provides evidence, for a vertebrate, that thresholds for alternative reproductive tactics differ genetically among populations and can be modelled as discontinuous reaction norms for age and size at maturity.

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