A number of studies have measured selection in nature to understand how populations adapt to their environment; however, the temporal dynamics of selection is rarely investigated. The aim of this study was to assess the temporal variation in selection by comparing the mode, direction and strength of selection on fitness related traits between two cohorts of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Specifically, we quantified individual reproductive success and examined selection on date of return and body length in a wild population at Big Beef Creek, Washington (USA).
Reproductive success and the mode, direction and strength of selection on date of return and body length differed between two cohorts sampled in 2006 and 2007. Adults of the first brood year had greater success over those of the second. In 2006, disruptive selection favoredearly and late returning individuals in 2-year-old males, and earlier returning 3-year-old males had higher fitness. No evidence of selection on date of return was detected in females. In 2007, selection on date of return was not observed in males of either age class, but stabilizing selection on date of return was observed in females. No selection on body length was detected in males of both age classes in 2006, and large size was associated with higher fitness in females. In 2007, selection favored larger size in 3-year-old males and intermediate size in females. Correlational selection between date of return and body length was observed only in 2-year-old males in 2006.
We found evidence of selection on body length and date of return to the spawning ground, both of which are important fitness-related traits in salmonid species, but this selection varied over time. Fluctuation in the mode, direction and strength of selection between two cohorts are likely to be due to factors such as changes in precipitation, occurrence of catastrophic events (flooding), the proportion of younger- versus older-maturing males, and sex ratio and densities of spawners.