Genetic adaptions underlying population structure in herring, Clupea harengus (GENSINC) (39355)

Project Details


The objective is to document genetic differentiation and local adaptations in Atlantic herring populations spanning the majority of the species' distribution in the Northeast Atlantic, thereby strengthening the scientific basis for management of herring stocks. This will be done by using new genomic analyses and by taking advantage of unique multi-generational experimental populations under controlled environmental conditions. Whole genome resequencing of 19 populations of herring from East Atlantic (including the North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, and the Baltic Sea revealed low genetic differentiation at the great majority of examined genes. This supports earlier genetic studies suggesting that genetic drift at selectively neutral loci is extremely low in these populations. However, highly significant differentiation at a limited number of loci (<5 %) was detected between Atlantic and Baltic herring, as well as between spring- and autumn-spawning herring irrespective of the geographic origin of the fish. The results showed that alleles underlying ecological adaptation in herring provide a wealth of information about population subdivisions. An aim of the project is to sequence DNA from a much broader spectrum of herring populations, to assess evolutionary processes acting on the distribution and dynamics of herring populations exhibiting different ecological and phenotypic traits (e.g. spawning time). Concurrently the activities will aim to identify population specific markers that could be used in genetic monitoring of herring stocks.In order to further study the biological significance of the genetic variants underlying ecological adaptation in the Atlantic herring University of Bergen has established world-unique experimental populations by crossing Atlantic herring (adapted to a salinity of 35 psu) and Baltic herring (adapted to 6 psu). These fish will be used to generate a highly informative F2 intercross that will segregate at the loci responsible for ecological adaptation. Another experimental population consisting of hybrids between spring and autumn spawning herring is planned within this project, allowing novel studies on the genetic basis of reproduction timing in herring. Such multigenerational experiments are considered essential to understand evolutionary and population genetic responses to environmental change.

DTU Aqua, National Institute of Aquatic Resources
University of Bergen, Norway (coordinator)
Uppsala University, Sweden
Institute of Marine Research, Norway
Queen’s University Belfast, UK

The project was funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Research area: Population Genetics
Effective start/end date01/01/201631/12/2019


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