Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Minnesota
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Huff, D. D., L. M. Miller, C. J. Chiziniski, and B. Vondracek. 2011. Mixed-source reintroductions lead to outbreeding depression in the second-generation descendents of a native North American fish. Molecular Ecology 20:4246–4258.


Reintroductions are commonly employed to preserve intraspecific biodiversity in fragmented landscapes. However, reintroduced populations are frequently smaller and more geographically isolated than native populations. Mixing genetically, divergent sources are often proposed to attenuate potentially low genetic diversity in reintroduced populations that may result from small effective population sizes. However, a possible negative tradeoff for mixing sources is outbreeding depression in hybrid offspring. We examined the consequences of mixed-source reintroductions on several fitness surrogates at nine slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) reintroduction sites in south-east Minnesota. We inferred the relative fitness of each crosstype in the reintroduced populations by comparing their growth rate, length, weight, body condition and persistence in reintroduced populations. Pure strain descendents from a single source population persisted in a greater proportion than expected in the reintroduced populations, whereas all other crosstypes occurred in a lesser proportion. Length, weight and growth rate were lower for second-generation intra-population hybrid descendents than for pure strain and first-generation hybrids. In the predominant pure strain, young-of the-year size was significantly greater than any other crosstype. Our results suggested that differences in fitness surrogates among crosstypes were consistent with disrupted co-adapted gene complexes associated with beneficial adaptations in these reintroduced populations. Future reintroductions may be improved by evaluating the potential for local adaptation in source populations or by avoiding the use of mixed sources by default when information on local adaptations or other genetic characteristics is lacking.