The timing of migration and breeding are key life-history traits; they are not only adaptations of populations to their environments, but can serve to increase reproductive isolation, facilitating further divergence among populations. As part of a study of divergence of chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, populations, established in New Zealand from a common source in the early 1900s, we tested the hypotheses that the timing of migration and breeding are under genetic control and that the populations genetically differ in these traits despite phenotypic overlap in timing in the wild. Representatives of families from two populations were collected within a day or two of each other, reared in a common environment, and then released to sea from each of two different rivers, while other family representatives were retained in fresh water to maturity. The date of maturation of fish held in fresh water and the dates of return from the ocean and maturation of fish released to sea all showed significant differences between the two populations and among families within populations. The very high heritabilities and genetic correlations estimated for migration and maturation date indicated that these traits would respond rapidly to selection. Combined with the results of related studies on these chinook salmon populations, it appears that spawning time may not only evolve during the initial phases of divergence, but it may play an important role in accelerating divergence in other traits.
Corresponding Editor: L. Bernatchez