Differentiating Salmonid Migratory Ecotypes Through Stable Isotope Analysis of Collagen: Archaeological and Ecological Applications

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
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Guiry E, Royle TCA, Matson RG, Ward H, Weir T, Waber N, et al. (2020) Differentiating salmonid migratory ecotypes through stable isotope analysis of collagen: Archaeological and ecological applications. PLoS ONE 15(4): e0232180. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232180

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0232180

The ability to distinguish between different migratory behaviours (e.g., anadromy and potamodromy) in fish can provide important insights into the ecology, evolution, and conservation of many aquatic species. We present a simple stable carbon isotope (δ13C) approach for distinguishing between sockeye (anadromous ocean migrants) and kokanee (potamodromous freshwater residents), two migratory ecotypes of Oncorhynchus nerka (Salmonidae) that is applicable throughout most of their range across coastal regions of the North Pacific Ocean. Analyses of kokanee (n = 239) and sockeye (n = 417) from 87 sites spanning the North Pacific (Russia to California) show that anadromous and potamodromous ecotypes are broadly distinguishable on the basis of the δ13C values of their scale and bone collagen. We present three case studies demonstrating how this approach can address questions in archaeology, archival, and conservation research. Relative to conventional methods for determining migratory status, which typically apply chemical analyses to otoliths or involve genetic analyses of tissues, the δ13C approach outlined here has the benefit of being non-lethal (when applied to scales), cost-effective, widely available commercially, and should be much more broadly accessible for addressing archaeological questions since the recovery of otoliths at archaeological sites is rare.

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