Evolution illuminated: salmon and their relatives.

Edited by A. Hendry and S. Stearns

Amazingly, still available (although it isn’t cheap) at Oxford University Press, Google Books, and Amazon.


Brief Description

This book uses salmonids (salmon, trout, char, and their relatives) as a model system to test evolutionary theory, and to address key questions in conservation and management.

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Chapter titles and authors





The salmonid contribution to key issues in evolution.

S. Stearns, A. Hendry


Life histories, evolution, and salmonids.

W. Schaffer


The evolution of philopatry and dispersal: homing vs. straying in salmonids.

A. Hendry, V. Castric, M. Kinnison, T. Quinn


To sea or not to sea: anadromy vs. non-anadromy in salmonids.

A. Hendry, T. Bohlin, B. Jonsson, O. Berg


Evolution of egg size and number

S. Einum, M. Kinnison, A. Hendry


Norms of reaction and phenotypic plasticity in salmonid life histories.

J. Hutchings


Ecological theory of adaptive radiation: an empirical assessment from Coregonine fishes.

L. Bernatchez


From macro- to micro-evolution: tempo and mode in salmon evolution.

M. Kinnison, A. Hendry


Evolution in mixed company: evolutionary inferences from studies of natural hybridization in Salmonidae

E. Taylor


Salmonid breeding systems.

I. Fleming, J. Reynolds


Salmonid insights into effective population size.

R. Waples


Evolution of chinook salmon life history under size-selective harvest.

J. Hard


Conservation units and preserving diversity.

M. Ford


Toward evolutionary management: lessons from salmonids.

K. Young


How low on the scale of nature this law of battle descends, I know not; male alligators have been described as fighting, bellowing, and whirling round, like Indians in a wardance, for the possession of females; male salmons have been seen fighting all day long; male stag-beetles often bear wounds from the huge mandibles of other males.  The war is, perhaps, severest between the males of polygamous animals, and these seem oftenest provided with special weapons.  The males of carnivorous animals are already well armed; though to them and to others, special means of defence may be given through means of sexual selection, as the mane to the lion, the shoulder-pad to the boar, and the hooked jaw to the male salmon; for the shield may be as important for victory, as the sword or spear." (Darwin 1859, p. 88).


With this passage, salmonids made their entrée into evolutionary biology, appearing in no less than the first great work on the subject, Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”. Darwin highlighted salmon again, this time with a beautiful illustration, in his “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex.” From these auspicious beginnings, the contribution of salmonids to the development of evolutionary theory has waxed and waned. Recent years, in particular, have seen a resurgence in the use of salmonids to address evolutionary theory; this book attempts to synthesize some of that ongoing work.


The book begins with an introduction that reviews the various features of salmonids that commend (or do not commend) them to the testing of evolutionary theory. The introduction also highlight some of the areas to which salmonids are making substantial contributions. The first contributed chapter is by Bill Schaffer, whose pioneering work on life history theory helped launch a field that has remained vital to the present. Bill saw the value of using salmonids to test evolutionary theory and in doing so inspired much of the work that appears in this volume. Bill reviews and revisits his classic work in the light of new data from salmonids. He also provides personal anecdotes from a time when life history theory was just exploding onto the evolutionary scene.


The following chapters examine in detail the use of salmonids to address specific questions in evolutionary biology. Although each chapter focuses on a separate area of evolutionary theory, certain themes recur across chapters: e.g., the evolution of alternative mating tactics and adaptation to anadromy/non-anadromy. In their entirety, the chapters address only a subset of the many areas to which salmonids are actively contributing; the omission of other areas does not mean that we consider them to be of lesser importance.


Despite the affection that humans hold for salmonids, or perhaps because of it, many salmonid populations currently face the threat of extinction. For this reason, much of the current research on salmonids is motivated by their conservation and management. The final few chapters of the book highlight the contributions that evolutionary theory can make to such endeavors. By addressing these issues, we hope to encourage further integration of evolutionary theory and conservation biology, and more generally, basic and applied research.


We thank the numerous people who contributed to this book, especially the chapter authors and peer reviewers. We also acknowledge Heather Roffey and Vanessa Partridge, who helped with the otherwise thankless job of formatting the text and checking the references. Finally, we express our profound gratitude to Steve Johnson, whose drawings grace the frontispiece for each chapter. Steve took considerable time from his graduate work to produce these drawings and did so wonderfully with minimal monetary compensation.


In hoping that you enjoy this book, we close with the immortal words of that most enthusiastic of fish fanciers, Gollum: “Fishes precious.”


Andrew Hendry and Steve Stearns



Charles Darwin on salmon.     George Williams on salmon.


Last updated November, 2014.

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