Vancouver, BC (KINY) - Two salmon researchers say a surprising discovery has been made on Vancouver Island.
According to CBC News, Andres Araujo, a biologist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Will Duguid, a Ph.D. biology student at the University of Victoria, recently found fish in the Cowichan River, north of Victoria, B.C., that have the genes of both coho and chinook salmon.
Tissue samples revealed the fish are second-generation hybrids, meaning they are the spawn of hybrids.
The hybrid fish, according to Araujo and Duguid, is a rare find in Canada and is likely the result of drought in the Cowichan watershed, which has impacted when and where coho and chinook spawn.
Araujo noted that chinook usually spawns in September and October, whereas coho traditionally spawns toward the end of October until December. He said when summer droughts extend into fall it can push chinook spawning season back into when coho are also starting to spawn.
A member of the Cowichan Tribes spotted the first hybrid in the river during an adult fish tagging study being done in partnership between the First Nation and the province.
Duguid said the hybrid fish can sometimes be identified by their abnormal scale arrangement, which is not patterned evenly on either side of their lateral line.
The duo said human activity, such as forestry practices and climate change, are also changing the landscape of the Cowichan River region and also likely played a role in causing the hybridization.