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Big Fish In a Small Pool: Habitat Preferences of Cutthroat Trout
This article is from Issue Olympic Winter Games - Vol. 2 No. 2.
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Cutthroat trout are a type of salmon. The scientists in this study wanted to find out if cutthroat trout behave like other salmonids.
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For natural resource scientists to be fairly certain about something, they often do many similar research studies. If they get similar results in different settings or with different kinds of species, they are more confident about their results. The scientists in this study wanted to know where cutthroat trout would prefer to live in a stream, if more dominant trout were not present. They removed the largest cutthroat trout from a stream to see what would happen. They expected remaining trout to move into the same locations that larger, more dominant trout had occupied. This study was similar to other studies with other species of trout and other stream fish. In those studies, scientists found that when more dominant fish were removed from a river, other fish moved into their locations. In this way, the scientists thought they could identify the trout's favorite places. What do you think Dr. Young and his colleagues found out about cutthroat trout?
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In the natural world, you might find that two different bird species would like to build their nest in the same place, perhaps a place that is safe from predators. You might also find that members of the same species would like to occupy the same place, such as one that provides a lot of their favorite kind of food. Since there is a limit to the number of individuals one place can support, usually the largest or most dominant individuals of a species get to live in the best places. By studying the preferred location of the dominant individuals, scientists can learn about the best habitats for certain species.
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