The kokanee salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), also known as the kokanee trout, little redfish, silver trout, kikanning, Kennerly’s salmon, Kennerly’s trout, or Walla, is the non-anadromous form of the sockeye salmon (meaning that they do not migrate to the sea, instead living out their entire lives in freshwater). There is some debate as to whether the kokanee and its sea-going relative are separate species; geographic isolation, failure to interbreed, and genetic distinction point toward a recent divergence in the history of the two groups. The divergence most likely occurred around 15,000 years ago when a large ice melt created a series of freshwater lakes and rivers across the northern part of North America. While some members of the salmon family (salmonids) went out to sea (anadromous), others stayed behind in fresh water (non-anadromous). The separation of the sockeye and the kokanee created a unique example of sympatric speciation that is relatively new in evolutionary terms. While they occupy the same areas and habitats during the breeding season, when ocean-going sockeye salmon return to freshwater to spawn, the two populations do not mate with each other in some regions, suggesting speciation.

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