I may be painting myself into the salmon-blogger corner here at Nature’s Confluence, but quite simply, I think they are fascinating, and they give us so much to ponder! So I hope others enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing about this astounding fish. This post moves away from direct management concerns in California and talks a bit more about the big evolutionary picture of the salmon life-cycle. Spoiler alert - there are no answers here, just some ideas and lots of questions waiting to be answered.
What could possibly inspire a juvenile salmon shorter than your toothbrush to swim hundreds or thousands of miles from their home stream to the vast ocean? There are actually many analogous migrations throughout the animal world, including those of birds, butterflies, and caribou. The study of these risky, long-distance movements has resulted in theory about evolutionary ecology and the selective pressures that result in these seemingly improbable behaviors.
Beware: Informal Blog Post Ahead.
Thank you, John Oliver, for making the world aware of the salmon cannon. If you have not yet become enlightened about this fascinating and hilarious means for transporting fish, stop reading. Click on the above link… Are you done? Great. Now we can all agree it is comical, but it also is a creative solution to the wide-spread problem of dams preventing access to historic salmon spawning habitat, including California’s Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon. Whether or not a salmon cannon will be installed at Shasta Dam, it’s mere existence lets me highlight ambitious plans to save this fantastic fish. If you’re not familiar with the saga of the winter-run Chinook, check out my previous post, and if you’re on a role, look at Casey’s great discussion of how deep history shapes the world we see around us today. But if you don’t feel the need to read another post, take my word for it that these fish are a fine specimen of evolutionary adaptation and yet are holding on to existence by a pinky-fin in the face of the numerous changes humans have made in the world.
Just as a deck of cards has four different kings, the state of California has four different types of King Salmon. Each run is creatively named for the season when the adults return to the rivers – we have fall, late-fall, winter, and spring runs. King salmon, also known as Chinook salmon, are the topic of recent news in major California newspapers and science publications alike. One type of Chinook salmon, the winter-run Chinook, is only found in Northern California and is now staring extinction in the face. So I thought I’d take a few paragraphs to introduce you to this fascinating critter, and try to explain why this fish, which requires cold water during California’s hot summer, exists here in the first place.
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