U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Environmental Biology of Fishes 69: 379–393, 2004.


The use of developmental instability (an individual’s failure to produce a consistent phenotype in a given environment) was evaluated to detect the effects of outplanting hatchery fish on wild salmon. Juvenile chinook salmon were collected in 1989, 1990, and 1991 from five drainages in the Snake River Basin. In each drainage we attempted to collect fish from streams with no hatchery supplementation (wild), naturally spawning fish from streams with hatchery supplementation (natural), and fish collected at a hatchery. Forty fish were collected per site and the number of elements in bilateral characters were counted on each side of the fish. Indices of fluctuating asymmetry (FA), a measure of minor, random deviations in perfect symmetry of bilateral counts, were calculated as an estimator of developmental instability. Analysis of character counts from seven paired characters revealed normal distributions. Only one of the characters displayed counts that were statistically larger on one side than the other, indicating that directional asymmetry (DA) or antisymmetry was not a major bias of FA. However, the means of all individual characters revealed a non-statistically significant left side bias. We analyzed our data using two indices of FA (FA1 and FA5) with different levels of sensitivity to DA. Differences in both FA indices were found among years, with collection sites in 1989 having significantly larger FA values than in 1991 (FA p < 0.01). Levels of FA among wild, natural, and hatchery fish were comparatively small (FA1 p = 0.17). This suggests developmental conditions were different in the first year of the study than in the last. The cause of these differences may be linked to either genetic or environmental variation or to gene–environment interactions, but the general population declines of salmon that occurred during this time obscures more specific conclusions.