Polygenic discrimination of migratory phenotypes in an estuarine forage fish
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1093/g3journal/jkac133
Migration is a complex phenotypic trait with some species containing migratory and nonmigratory individuals. Such life history variation may be attributed in part to plasticity, epigenetics, or genetics. Although considered semianadromous, recent studies using otolith geochemistry have revealed life history variation within the critically endangered Delta Smelt. Broadly categorizable as migratory or freshwater residents, we examined Restriction site Associated DNA sequencing data to test for a relationship between genetic variation and migratory behaviors. As previously shown, we found no evidence for neutral population genetic structure within Delta Smelt; however, we found significant evidence for associations between genetic variants and life history phenotypes. Furthermore, discriminant analysis of principal components, hierarchical clustering, and machine learning resulted in accurate assignment of fish into the freshwater resident or migratory classes based on their genotypes. These results suggest the presence of adaptive genetic variants relating to life history variation within a panmictic population. Mechanisms that may lead to this observation are genotype dependent habitat choice and spatially variable selection, both of which could operate each generation and are not exclusive. Given that the population of cultured Delta Smelt are being used as a refugial population for conservation, as a supply for wild population supplementation, and currently represent the majority of all living individuals of this species, we recommend that the hatchery management strategy consider the frequencies of life history-associated alleles and how to maintain this important aspect of Delta Smelt biological variation while under captive propagation.