Conserving marine biodiversity: insights from life-history trait candidate genes in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)

Jakob Hemmer Hansen, Nina Overgaard Therkildsen, Dorte Meldrup, Einar Eg Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Recent technological developments have facilitated an increased focus on identifying genomic regions underlying adaptive trait variation in natural populations, and it has been advocated that this information should be
important for designating population units for conservation. In marine fishes, phenotypic studies have suggested adaptation through divergence of life-history traits among natural populations, but the distribution of adaptive genetic
variation in these species is still relatively poorly known. In this study, we extract information about the geographical distribution of genetic variation for 33 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with life-history trait
candidate genes, and compare this to variation in 70 putatively neutral SNPs in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). We analyse samples covering the major population complexes in the eastern Atlantic and find strong evidence for nonneutral
levels and patterns of population structuring for several of the candidate gene-associated markers, including two SNPs in the growth hormone 1 gene. Thus, this study aligns with findings from phenotypic studies, providing
molecular data strongly suggesting that these or closely linked genes are under selection in natural populations of Atlantic cod. Furthermore, we find that patterns of variation in outlier markers do not align with those observed at
selectively neutral markers, and that outlier markers identify conservation units on finer geographical scales than those revealed when analysing only neutral markers. Accordingly, results also suggest that information about adaptive
genetic variation will be useful for targeted conservation and management in this and other marine species
Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)213-228
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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