Scientists studying Great Bear Lake trout

A lake in the Northwest Territories known for producing trophy-size trout is getting attention from scientists for how many different kinds of trout call it home.

Scientists believe there are four or five distinct kinds of trout in Great Bear Lake.

"Normally trout will not exhibit that much diversity, so it is an exceptional case,” said Louise Chavarie, a University of Alberta PhD student.

“It is recently a de-glaciated lake that didn't have that much time to evolve compared to other lakes that we can find in the south. We see that much diversity - it is a hypothesis that they do evolve faster."

Great Bear Lake is 32,000 square kilometres in size and home to only 15 species of fish.

Researchers believe that with less competition for food the trout have carved out different niches, developing different features, some growing to unimaginable sizes.

Craig Blackie of Dalhousie University wrote his PhD thesis on Great Bear Lake trout.

"This has happened very quickly, and in this case, in about 400 generations whereas you talk about Darwin's finch or cichlids in Africa - many more generations have passed,” he said. “So why this is of interest is we are seeing the very early the process of speciation."

Trout in the Great Lakes haven't been as lucky because of overfishing and pollution.

"Those waters are predicted to go up in temperature about five or six degrees that would put lake trout over their lethal temperatures,” said David Schindler, an ecologist at the University of Alberta. “With climate change, I predict we will lose a lot of trout habitat."

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