Regetz, Jim Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
Last reviewed:September 2015
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- General biology
- Species diversity
- Causes of endangerment
- Approaches to recovery
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The common name for a number of fish in the family Salmonidae that live in coastal waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific and breed in rivers tributary to the oceans. Salmon are large, predatory fish belonging to the genera Oncorhynchus and Salmo (order Salmoniformes). The defining characteristic of salmon is their anadromous lifestyle: they spawn in freshwater, migrate to the ocean during development, and at maturity return to freshwater. Upon their return, salmon exhibit high site fidelity, spawning at or very near their natal breeding grounds, although a small fraction of individuals do stray to other areas. This general strategy proved to be enormously successful, with prodigious numbers of salmon traversing many river systems prior to human interference. However, as anthropogenic (human-induced) threats have continued to increase, salmon distribution and population sizes have decreased in many cases. Recognizing salmon's importance as an economic commodity, cultural symbol, and ecological indicator, scientists and conservationists have bolstered their efforts to identify threats, develop mitigation strategies, and ultimately recover these dwindling stocks. See also: Ecology; Freshwater ecosystem; Marine conservation; Marine ecology; Migratory behavior; Salmoniformes
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