Are wild salmon smarter than hatchery salmon? Some researchers at Oregon State University say think so, especially when it comes to picking the perfect mate.
The study found that wild Coho salmon have the ability to seek out mates that will give them the most offspring, specifically mates with certain types of disease resistant genes different than their own.
According to the study, it's a survival technique that hatchery salmon don't have.
“The wild salmon appear a little smarter than the hatchery ones,” said Michael Banks, Oregon State University professor and co-author of the study. “We were able to demonstrate that when wild fish mated with other wild fish they had more offspring than when hatchery fish mated with hatchery fish.”
The research is based on a ten-year study that compared wild Coho salmon and hatchery salmon in the Umpqua River in southern Oregon.
Researchers believe the wild salmon actually seek out their perfect mate by smell. But when they looked at the hatchery fish they saw something very different.
“They appeared not to have any plan… the way in which they chose their mates appeared random,” Banks said.
The researchers said if they can better understand how wild fish mate, they can use that knowledge in the hatcheries to help increase survival rates there.
The group of researchers is trying to get funding to continue the study. The next phase would take about 15 years with the goal of helping hatchery fish spawn as they would in the wild.