Steelhead are Now Classified as Salmon?- Why?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by pilchuck steelie, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. pilchuck steelie

    pilchuck steelie New Member

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    A couple of friends at work discovered this, that Steelhead are now classified as the 6th species of Pacific Salmon, (Oncorhynchus Mykiss).
    One of them gave me a printout from WDFW stating this new change, with photos/descriptions of each of the 6 species. Can anyone clarify/explain the reason for this change? Thanks for the help.
     
  2. Daryle Holmstrom

    Daryle Holmstrom retiredfishak

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    Link?
     
  3. Richard Olmstead

    Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    This certainly isn't new and isn't anything that the WDFW has any responsibility for. Taxonomists many years ago recognized that steelhead (and rainbow, which are the same species) are most closely related to Pacific salmon (and not to Atlantic Salmon, as some once thought). This goes for cutthroat trout, too (Onchorhynchus clarki).

    Common names (eg, salmon, trout) are often much less precise indicators of relationship. You are still welcome to refer to rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus), brook trout (Salvelinus), and brown trout (Salmo) as 'trout,' for example. Thus, the fact that steelhead are in the same genus as the Pacific salmon species, that doesn't make them "salmon."

    D
     
  4. CoastalCutt

    CoastalCutt Member

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    I'm sure the state is only classifying them as salmon for clarification's sake. I think they're more salmon than trout anyway, as for Cutthroat like Richard said.
     
  5. Mark Bové

    Mark Bové Chasin tail

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    Actually if this it true it would be the seventh you forget Oncorhynchus masu.
     
  6. Longs for Cutts

    Longs for Cutts Member

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    The taxonomic shift happened in the late 80s or early 90s. The reclassification for management purposes is different. Wolves and dogs are not only the same genus (Canis) but the same species, and they're obviously not managed the same despite genetics.

    The reason for the management classification switch for steelhead has to do with the life history: being anadromous puts steelhead with salmon in regards to commercial fishing, ocean conditions, dams, etc. Non-anadromous rainbows share none of these concerns. Thus, making the connection between a steelhead's life history and the Pacific salmons' actually makes more sense, despite genetics saying they're the same as other 'bows.
     
  7. nb_ken

    nb_ken Member

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    I'm thinking that this might make it easier to classify steelhead as threatened or endangered.

    Biologically, there really is no such thing as a steelhead. There is no genetic difference distinguishing a steelhead from a rainbow trout. All steelhead start out as rainbows, and it's the act of going to sea that makes them steelhead. But unlike salmon, not all rainbows are anadromous. The offspring of 2 rainbows might go to sea and become a steelhead. The offspring of 2 steelhead may never go to sea and remain a rainbow its entire life. There is no way to predict whether an individual fish will head for the salt.

    When steelhead start appearing on threatened or endangered lists, people who have an economic interest in not protecting steelhead -- timber companies, power companies, ranchers, etc. -- point to this fact. A steelhead is a big rainbow trout. There are millions of rainbows out there. How can they be threatened?

    Maybe by viewing steelhead as a separate, anadromous variety of trout more closely related to salmon, it might make it easier to offer them protection.
     
  8. sashjo

    sashjo Member

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    Search before you post. I believe this has been covered before.

    If you ever go to Salmon Days, you would see a steelhead next to all the salmon for a reason.
     
  9. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Richard has it correct -
    The placement of our "trout" species into the pacific salmon genus was endorsed by the American Fisheries Society.

    However as far as the state is concern and the management of the concern species our traditional trout are still classified as game fish - The following are considered to be trout in the pamphlet cutthroat, rainbow, browns, brooks, kokanee, land-locked Atlantics, coho, and chinook, goldens, lakers, tigers, and grayling.

    Bull torut/Dolly Varden are not considered to be "trout" in the pamphlet and any open seasons for them must be specifically listed.

    While the salmon are classifeid as food fish -Chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, pinks, and sea-ging Atlantics.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  10. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    The taxonomic revision was made in 1989 because of the morphological and genetic similarity of steelhead/rainbow and cutthroat to other members of the genus Oncorhynchus. As mentioned above, the use of common names like "salmon" and "trout" lack precision and can be misleading (think "silver trout", stocked in put-and-take lakes, which are actually sockeye or, occasionally, coho salmon). The change was based, according to Robert Behnke, "... on the fact that there is no reasonable doubt that the Pacific trout are more closely related to Pacific salmon than they are to the Atlantic salmon and brown trout ..."
     
  11. alpinetrout

    alpinetrout Banned or Parked

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    Your friends are about 19 years behind the times...
     
  12. Zen Piscator

    Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

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    Did you also know that cutthroat and rainbow trout (goldens included) and actually all trout native to the western US are classified under the pacific salmon genus. Now you do.
     
  13. gigharborflyfisher

    gigharborflyfisher Native Trout Hunter

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    The decision to lump both cutthroat and steelhead in with Pacific Salmon in the genus Oncorhynchus is based on genetic relationships between the all of the western trout species, which are more closely related to each other than Atlantic Salmon or Brown trout.

    However as calling the salmon is concerned they can just as easily be called Pacific Salmon or Pacific Trout. This diverse group includes all of the Pacific Salmon species (5), Rainbow /Redband/ Golden Trout (Steelhead is in this group) from Alaska to Mexico, Cutthroat (14 subspecies w/ 2 extinct), Mexican Golden Trout, Gila and Apache Trout.

    The is a true 6th Pacific Salmon (spawns than dies; same basic life history as our 5 Pacific Salmon) in Asia called the Masu or Cherry salmon, which also has two freshwater subspecies the Amago (only pacifc trout with red body spots) and Yamame.
     
  14. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    A small percentage of masu salmon (Oncorhynchus masou) survive to spawn more than once.
     
  15. pilchuck steelie

    pilchuck steelie New Member

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    Thanks everyone for the clarification. I'll pass this on to my friends.
     
  16. ChrisW

    ChrisW AKA Beadhead

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    Nice thoughts but steelhead were reclassified long before they were seriously considered for ESA listing.

    Another and perhaps more accurate way of looking at it is that rainbows are steelhead that have become residualized either for man made reasons (dams, lakes) or for natural reasons (such as rich food sources in a river that is a long distance from or has difficult access to the sea). By and large if the steelhead/rainbows have access to the sea they will exhibit anadromous life histories. Nothing is absolute with these fish however.
     
  17. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    I'm no taxonimist but I think fish that die after they spawn should be in a different genus than fish that don't... But what do I know.
     
  18. Richard Olmstead

    Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    Many steelhead die after they spawn. Would you sort out those that die and put them in one genus and those that return to the sea and put them in another genus?

    I don't ask this to pick on you, but to make a point. For a long time, there was confusion resulting from an uncertain mix of functional attributes and physical attributes that were used as a basis for classification. It was Darwin who first suggested that all classification should be 'genealogical' (we use a different term, 'phylogenetic' today). For the past 150 years taxonomists have been trying to conform classifications to phylogeny, thus many changes along the way as our understanding of biology and evolution improved. Dramatic improvements have come on the past few decades with genetic methods of inferring evolutionary relationship. The evidence now is clear that rainbow/steelhead and cutthroat trout are related to Pacific Salmon, hence their classification together in the genus Onchorhynchus.

    That being said, the 'rank' (e.g., genus, family, etc.) to which a group of species is assigned still is a subjective and arbitrary decision. Current efforts to do away with the arbitrariness of ranks and provide a stable system of naming taxa (a general term for those groups of related species we might want to assign a name to) are underway and may supplant our traditional system at some point.

    D
     
  19. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    No because all pacific salmon die after they spawn 100% of the time. I understand that cutts, bows and salmon are closely related genetically but the differences in their life history should warrent cutts and bows their own genus IMO. I'd assume the highest adult mortality rate of any fish species is after spawning however however some survive, with pacific salmon NONE survive. Of course they shouldn't be classified in Salmo but I think rainbows, cutts, and other trout in Onchorhynchus should be in a different genus. Oh and bows and Cutts are the same species, Cuttbows can produce offspring right?
     
  20. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    No, cutthroat and rainbow/steelhead are not the same species even though they can hybridize. There are significant, consistent physical differences between the two. Hybridization is relatively rare among coastal cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki) and coastal rainbows (O. mykiss irideus) and even among westslope cutts and (O. clarki lewisi) and redband rainbows (O. mykiss gairdneri) in the regions where they co-evolved. It is most common among geographically isolated cutthroat subspecies subsequent to the introduction of planted rainbow stocks.

    As I mentioned above, small numbers of the Japanese cherry salmon (O. masou) can survive spawning and I see no reason why mortality (or the lack thereof) after spawning would not represent a spectrum of strategies evolved by varied species within a single genus.
     

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