Cutthroat Trout: Evolutionary Biology and Taxonomy

The Lahontan Basin Evolutionary Lineage of Cutthroat Trout

Mary M. Peacock, Helen M. Neville, and Amanda J. Finge

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874509.ch10

Abstract.—Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (LCT) Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi and Paiute Cutthroat Trout (PCT) O. c. selernis are found in the Lahontan hydrographic basin of northern Nevada, northeastern California, and southeastern Oregon and together form the Lahontan Basin evolutionary lineage of Cutthroat Trout O. clarkii. The Alvord Cutthroat Trout O. c. ssp. native to the Alvord Lake subbasin in the northwestern Lahontan Basin was also part of this lineage but went extinct due to Rainbow Trout O. mykiss introgression in the mid-20th century. Both LCT and PCT are federally listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Given its historic distribution in a single small stream and both phenotypic and genetic distinctiveness, PCT is currently recognized as a separate evolutionarily significant unit (ESU). For LCT, three ESUs are identified based upon meristic, morphological, ecological, and genetic data. These putative LCT ESUs separate lacustrine forms in the western Lahontan Basin (Truckee, Carson, and Walker River basins) from largely fluvial forms in the eastern Lahontan Basin (Humboldt and Reese River basins) and northwestern Lahontan Basin (Quinn River, Coyote Lake, and Summit Lake basins). The more recent recognition of a much longer evolutionary history of Cutthroat Trout and several influential genetic papers identifying previously unrecognized diversity within Cutthroat Trout have prompted a need to re-evaluate the overall taxonomy of this species. Here, we review earlier literature and draw on new information from recent studies to delineate uniquely identifiable evolutionary units within the Lahontan Basin lineage of Cutthroat Trout. Though in several cases various anthropogenic and natural influences have made definitive conclusions difficult, based on this collective information and the goal of conserving potentially important genetic, evolutionary, and life history diversity, we propose recognition of six uniquely identifiable evolutionary units within the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout lineage: (1) Paiute Cutthroat Trout—upper East Carson River; (2) western Lahontan Basin—Truckee, Walker, and Carson rivers together with Summit Lake; (3) northwestern Lahontan Basin—Quinn River; (4) eastern Lahontan Basin—Humboldt and Reese rivers; (5) Lake Alvord basin—Virgin-Thousand and Trout Creek drainages; and (6) Coyote Lake basin—Willow and Whitehorse rivers.