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College of Arts and Sciences Gary Thorgaard

Dramatic decline in genetic diversity of Northwest salmon charted

Chinook SalmonColumbia River Chinook salmon have lost as much as two-thirds of their genetic diversity, Washington State University researchers have found.

The researchers reached this conclusion after extracting DNA from scores of bone samples — some harvested as many as 7,000 years ago — and comparing them to the DNA of Chinook currently swimming in the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Preserving genetic diversity is a central goal of the Endangered Species Act, in part because it helps a species adapt to changing environments. Yet it is rarely measured to this degree. » More …