"Molecular techniques have been used recently to distinguish closely related subspecies of organisms that look similar. It was hoped that these methods would clarify relationships between different cutthroat trout subspecies, but instead they have muddied the water, challenging the current paradigm on the heritage of cutthroat trout in the state
Colorado is home to three subspecies of cutthroat trout, all of which are state species of special concern, and have been petitioned to be listed or are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. All three subspecies look very similar. As they could not be reliably identified visually or with traditional genetic techniques, their historic range had been used to distinguish them. Recent advances in genetic evaluation methods have finally allowed us to separate the three distinct lineages with assurance. A genetic study published in 2007 confirmed the presence of three discrete cutthroat trout taxa in Colorado, but this work suggested that undocumented stocking activities in the late 1800s may have clouded the heritage of both Colorado River and Greenback cutthroat trout.
Although the Greenback Recovery Team, which includes the CDOW, had initiated the delisting process for the species after decades of progress, these recent genetic findings have put that effort on hold until we can determine what we actually have, and where. It is critical that we identify their true ancestry before recovery and conservation efforts can continue. Isolation of DNA from museum specimens collected between 1860-1890 is currently being evaluated in hopes of accurately delineating historic ranges of these taxa. Comprehensive genetic assessments of our current populations are also underway to relate current distributions to historic ranges, and thereby infer the influence of historic undocumented stocking on present distribution."-------------
The classification of our cutthroats here in Colorado is of great interest to me and I feel a responsibility to convey information with accuracy. Ironically, the accurate information is that the genetic accuracy is in question.
If the historically original strains of GB and CR cutthroats have indeed been lost through merging, then it will be interesting to see how future classification is dealt with.
With all that being said, I give you the beautiful Colorado state fish; the Greenback Cutthroat Trout (what CDOW stocked as the Greenback Cutthroat before the potential "gene muddling" information had been uncovered.)