The Case for Genetic Analysis of the UMMZ Hubbs’ Collection

As a week of “summers of opportunity” begin to wind-down, it has become unavoidably evident that the State, or the “powers that be,” have no plan nor intention to under­take a pro­ject to safeguard phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout that may still be surviving in ***** Creek.

Disappointment may resonate for those who have invested the time and effort to see and experience these miracles of survival — whose persistent endurance may have defied the laws of nature and the usual dismal prospects for so disregarded a species.

Yet, perhaps, there is still a silver lining of meaning, of purpose, that may be gleaned from these seemingly sad experiences . . .  We can hope that there is still meaningful action that will yet be accomplished in behalf of alvordensis, and any future remnant to be discovered:

It is fairly common knowledge among those who have read Dr. Behnke’s book — Trout and Salmon of North America, or Patrick Trotter’s book — CUTTHROAT: Native Trout of the West, that Carl Hubbs and his family collected trout from Trout Creek in Oregon and from Virgin Creek in Nevada in 1934; and that those very specimens have been “waiting” for nearly 80 years at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

Waiting, for the day and age when more than just physical appearance, more than the record of coloration, more than just scale counts and meristic characteristics, could be ascertained from these samples.  . . . 80 pure specimens silently waiting for 80 years . . .

When Hubbs collected these trout — the aforementioned physiognomies were the only measures of what defined one species from another.  DNA was not understood; only its outward workings were the identifiable measures of what constituted one species of trout from another.

Yet today we have something considered more precise — more exact and exacting in its scope — more detailed and clearly defined in what it can ultimately ascertain.

Those who’ve read this site know that there has been an effort toward encouraging the State, and other entities and agencies, to take the trout at face value, as Dr. Behnke did when he first observed them in 2006.

The very methodologies that defined the cutthroat trout species that are known today — would also have recognized or considered these relict phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout as a remnant of alvordensis (possibly no less than if they had been located and found in Trout Creek, Oregon — or in Virgin Creek, Nevada).

Yet times have changed.  Standards that were once universally accepted by all of science, are being —or have been— replaced by the discipline and the standards of DNA analysis. The establishment of criteria within the DNA that is considered to be diagnostic — seen as durable in its composition and sequencing — are the new meristic measurements of today.

Thus DNA has become the new definer of what constitutes one species from another.

Indeed, in the race for knowledge and prestige; laboratories and universities now ‘compete’ with one another to be the ‘first,’ or the ‘best,’ at defining the genome of a given species — and that ‘intellectual property’ becomes a hallmark, a legacy, and an asset to and for such institutions that are governed and ‘graded’ by their intellectual prowess, distinguishing accomplishments and their own individually distinct and proprietary intellectual property.

Perhaps; truly good news is that there is one last unknown collection of ‘truth’ that is yet to be ingathered; to be ascertained, established and documented — where the realm of trout (especially cutthroat trout) are concerned.

That last unknown bastion of information; of knowledge, composition and perhaps even of history, resides in a few pounds of alvordensis tissue still preserved, and still “waiting” to reveal its secrets, at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

And so, now is the time.  It isn’t likely that there’ll be more time or money tomorrow.  And, it isn’t likely — with the recent advent of SNPs — that there will be major new methodologies ‘tomorrow’ that we should ‘wait’ longer in order to get the job done.

In reality, it has been demonstrated over the past seven summers that even essential individuals that would be required to save an endangered or ‘extinct’ species of trout — most likely would not believe their eyes were a remnant of alvordensis to be found in any Alvord Basin steam, or any Sheldon / **** ********  National Wildlife Refuge stream.

Even if the very last purebred alvordensis were staring us in the eyes; only the DNA would count as a witness and a testimony to the truth of the situation.

Yet; without the genetic baseline being established via the Hubbs’ collection at UMMZ — then there is NO WITNESS to bear testimony to the truth — of what isor what isn’t.

So, indeed: Now is the time to ‘interrogate’ the only believable witnesses that we have!

If we don’t — then we have chosen to live in a world of ignorance.

For the sake of any future vestige of alvordensis that might be found in this remote desert region — we owe it to the trout to be prepared — to be ready to act in behalf of any future survivors that may yet be located or discovered — in any of their historical range.

KOD 7-2012

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About kortumofdiscovery

Kortum of Discovery (a slight play on Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery) is a family team that is Affirming the Exceptional Beauty of Nature, one Adventure at a Time. With a focus toward rare and endangered species in the Great Basin and American west: discoveries, unique methodologies, and many “tall tales to tell” are continually being shared around the campfire!
This entry was posted in Fisheries Biology and Genetics, Progress - Reply - Response - Status. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Case for Genetic Analysis of the UMMZ Hubbs’ Collection

  1. Rex Eads says:

    Sounds like a great, noble effort to identify and possibly save this beautiful fish sub-species. I have a soft spot in my heart for native cutthroat trout. I’d like to learn more, and possibly lend a hand in the effort. Please contact me so I can determine how I can be of assistance. . . . Rex

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