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Travis LaScalza Chinook Salmon
Project Name : Travis LaScalza Chinook Salmon
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The mighty Chinook Slamon
The mighty Chinook salmon is the largest salmon in the world...from its weight, to its ability to live around the world, and the stories it portrays.  Scientists have been amazed by its life cycle and how long it has been on Earth.  Even though it is endangered, they still put up a fight in surviving and and being protected.

The specie's name is called the Chinook Salmon but it has many other names it goes by.  Such as the King, Quinnat, Blackmouth, and the Tyee Salmon.  The scientific name however is Oncorhynchus tshawyyscha.  The kingdom of this species is Animalia.  It belongs to a phylum of organisms with spinal cords called Chordata.  It is a member of the bony fish class called Actinopterygii and since its a salmon it belongs to the Salmonidae family.  The order it's classified in is the Salmoniformes, the genus is Oncorhynchus, and the specie is Oncorhynchus tshawyyscha (Bryant 1979, 1, 2).

The evolution of the salmon is  very interesting.  It starts out at 55 million years ago, when a new fish was born.  It was called the Teleosts, which includes all jawed fish, means that the skeleton is made out of cartilage instead of bone.  Another way they evolved was by acquiring a upper fin over their contemporaries.  Also they developed in form and physiology, with their better respiratory system and muscular structure allowing them to make fast and complicated movements.  The fossils records account that they originated in freshwater.  This is important because this means that one of the first salmons diversified from this by developing anadromy (Pohl, 1234). 

The habitat and range on this fish is very wide.  During its life cycle it will travel in a lot of oceans and rivers in search of food and their mating spots.  It is native to California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Southern British Columbia (Chilcote 2009, 1).   The range of this salmon is from the Monterey Bay in California to the  Chucki Sea location in Alaska in North America and on the Asian side of the coast the salmon is found from Anadyr River of Siberia (Delaney 1994, 2).

The chinook salmon is the largest salmon in the world.  It can weigh up to 150 pounds but on average it weighs up to 40 pounds.  Since the salmon goes from rivers to oceans, the salmon changes forms to adapt to its environment.  A mature salmon will have will have shiny green or blue on the top of them and on the sides it would be silver and on the bottom it would be white.  Also the salmon would have black spots on the the top and sides of it (Anonymous 2012, 3; Marone 1996, 2, 3).

The salmon's diet consists of many things, which include 63.4% of invertebrates, which are animals that have no backbone, 25.8% of mayflies, 15.8% of non biting midges, and 8.3% of caddis fly (Johnson 2007, 1, 2).  When they are eating in the water they will eat red krill, juvenile hoki, blue grenadier, which is 18% of their diet.  Although the salmon does not vary much in food, it will stick to these main food sources.  The yearling salmon however, will eat mainly larval fish species and mysid Tenagomysis macropsis which are a type of shrimp (James 1996, 1, 2, 3, 4).

The chinook salmon moves by swimming.  It does this "primarily by contracting bands of muscles in sequence on alternate sides of the body so that the tail is whipped very rapidly from side to side in a sculling motion. Vertical fins are used mainly for stabilization. Paired pectoral and pelvic fins are used primarily for stability when a fish hovers, but sometimes may be used to aid rapid forward motion" (Anonymous 1996 e, 1).

The life cycle of the chinook salmon is an amazing process.  The first step is when the female salmon lay eggs in fresh water river with cool, rushing water into nests they made.  The females make this nest by swimming back and forth turning up the gravel into a funnel shape under the floor.  Once this happens the males release their sperm into the river and let the eggs fertilize.  This is when all the adult salmon die.  After this, the eggs stay in the nest all winter and emerge in the spring. Then the salmon hatch and become frys, they will eat their yolk sac and have parr marks to help them conceal themselves from bigger fish and fish eating birds.  When the salmon are done eating their sac they go through a stage called smolting, in this stage they are called smolts. During this time they become silvery and accepting of sea water.  Since they have grown they can now eat small fish and tiny shellfish.

Once they have finally fully entered the ocean in the Pacific, they will grow exponentially, by eating large diet of herring and anchovies.  After three to four years the male and female salmon will be able to spawn.  Although 10% to 25% of the male spawners, who are only 2 years old called jacks are part of the spawning run.  During this time, the male salmon will acquire a hooked jaw and with the females, will turn an olive brown then finally to black. When they return to their exact birthing spot, they will lay their eggs and sperm in the water.  They know where they were their birthing place is exactly  because of the familiar smells and plants that were in the stream at the time (Marone 1996, 5, 6, 7). 

The respiratory system of the salmon is typical of any fish.  It starts in the gill arches.  They provide structure for the rest of the gill.  The filaments deoxygenate the blood to the surface of the gill.  The lamellae is were the gas is exchanged.  There are two main ways on how the salmon get their oxygen.  The first way is by having the blood flowing through the lamellae and filaments in the opposite way of the water entering the gills.  The other way is by having the big surface of the multiple lamellaes that are cell thick and blanket like membranes that are extensions of the filaments. 

Then the second way, also involving the circulatory system and blood flow, is important is because there is less air in the space of water, than there is on land.  The way the salmon gets the oxygen from the water is the water would be pressurized and pushed through the gills.  So in order for the amount of time to increase and keep the oxygen with the blood as long as possible they will do this by diffusion. Diffusion is the process where in a pushing motion, oxygen molecules will be pushed through a lower concentration.  The heart of the fish has two chambers. One of them is to receive blood and the second is to pump it back into the body (Anonymous 2012 f, 1, 2, 3).  The digestive system on the other hand is not very complicated.  It starts when the food enters the pyloric caeca, which is very sac like.  This part is like a small intestine and will create digestive juices, that will break down the food and retrieve the nutrients.  Once this is done it will move to the alimentary canal connecting to the vent and finally exiting the from the body.  The other use for this vent is for the salmon to release it eggs and sperm (Anonymous 2007 g, 1, 2).

The status of this species is that it is an important keystone species and it is endangered.  What makes the species so important is because it provides for the Orca Whale, bears, seals, and large birds of prey.  It is also a very popular sport fish (Anonymous 2012 d, 1).  Although it is still endangered.  The reason is due to man trying to spawn more of the salmon and replacing the wild ones.  When man keeps on trying to spawn more salmon they are thriving more in captivity, than they are in the wild.  Basically when they release the salmon into the wild, they are having a better chance at reproducing than the ones that are native to the wild.  Also the wild ones that were able to reproduce had offspring that were performing the worst compared to the the offspring of the captive salmon (Nuwer 2011, 1, 2, 4).  Another way the salmon are becoming endangered is because the attempts at restoring their habitat.  For example, in the Columbia River billions of dollars are being spent in order to restore proper measure.  However these plans are failing and the salmon population is still declining.  It has gotten to the point were in the 2008 and 2009 commercial fishing season, it was closed for the first time.  Scientists believe it is due to there being a lack of diversity in food supply, forcing the salmon to go to the ocean in search of food.  This results in salmon staying in the river, while other salmon are going off into the ocean creating multiple life history sequences in one generation.  These results support that attempting to control the river will not help the cause for salmon because it is impossible, so in order for the salmon to have a chance, the river must have time to revert back to its natural state (Chicolete 2009, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Some current research that has been done on this type of salmon are that researchers have found out that most Chinook salmon are not really wild, that most of them are actually from hatcheries.  From 400 salmon in the Monkelume River in 2008 to 18,000 salmon in this year.  This is due to hatcheries, not from the salmon reproducing in the wild.  Only 10% of the salmons were born in the wild.  This is bad because the captive born salmon aren't needing to adapt to a tougher environments early on in their life time (Satran 2012, 1, 2, 3).  Another study about the water quality has been done.  It showed that mine drainage, phosphorus from refinery plants, nitrates from fertilizers, defilement from human waste, and construction have changed the salmon population.  These chemicals, nitrates, and waste have affected the food and the nests for the salmon eggs.  Also it has been found that dams have been blocking spawning passages for successful spawning (Kryston 2012, 1, 2, 3).

The Chinook salmon has been around for a very long time.  The Chinook tribe was very dependent on this salmon and created a legend for it.  The way it went was, they feared that without the salmon they would starve.  So in order for this to not happen, they believed by cutting out the heart and burning it the spirit would not be eaten by dogs or other wild animals preserving the life and therefore the accumulation of the fish.  An Irish myth acquaints a man called Demne and the magical Salmon of Knowledge of the River Boyme, which tells of the person gaining knowledge if he ate the fish.  An old European story where the servants were so tired of the big diet of salmon that in their contracts they put that the salmon meal would only be once a week (Filippone 2012, 1, 2, 3).

Chinook salmon have been around many years ,but are now endangered and although its habitat is very large and its being protected they are still at risk.  It will be a shame if they go, because the are a very important keystone species and are amazing to research.  With their way to live and the trouble they go through to reproduce, they are one tough fish.  Also, they were a huge part of the Chinook tribe and that will never change.
Anonymous 2012,  "Chinook Salmon"

Anonymous 2012 d,  "Chinook Salmon"

Anonymous 1996 e,  "How do fish swim? How fast?"

Anonymous 2012 f,  "How Gills Work"

Anonymous 2007 g,"Salmon Biology"

Bryant 1979, "Quinnat Salmon"

Chicolete 2009, "As salmon continue to decline, a long-term study to understand their needs"

Delany 1994, "The Alaskan Chinook Salmon"

Filippone 2012, "Salmon Lore and Legend"

James 1996, "Diet of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in Canterbury coastal water, New Zealand"

Johnson 2007, "Diet Composition and Feeding Perioicity of Wild and Hatchery Subyearling Chinook Salmon in Lake Ontario"

Kryston 2012, "Environmental Impacts"

Marone 1996, "Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)"

Nuwer 2011, "Unfit Salmon an 'Plain Old Darwinian Selection"

Pohl 2008, "The Salmon's Ancient Origins"

Satrun 2012, "Chinook Salmon Study Shows Many Salmon In Wild Aren't Really Wild"