Genetic assignment predicts depth of benthic settlement for 0-group Atlantic cod

Guðbjörg Ásta Ólafsdóttir*, Shaun Turnbull, Ingibjörg G. Jónsdóttir, Anja Nickel, Hjalti Karlsson, Theresa Henke, Einar Eg Nielsen, Snæbjörn Pálsson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Atlantic cod is a keystone species that remains among the most economically important demersal fish in the North Atlantic. Throughout its distribution range, Atlantic cod is composed of populations with varying environmental preferences and migratory propensities. This life-history variation is likely to have contributed to the niche width and large population sizes of Atlantic cod, and its relative resilience to environmental change and exploitation. The Icelandic cod stock is currently managed as a single unit, but early research indicates population variation by depth and temperature and distinct offshore and inshore spawning components. Pelagic 0-group juveniles from different spawning grounds coexist in nursery areas around Iceland, but their genetic composition or habitat partitioning had not been examined post benthic settlement. In the current study we examine the genetic composition of Atlantic cod juvenile aggregations at nearshore nursery grounds in NW-Iceland and report distinct segregation by the depth of offshore and inshore juvenile cod. The physiological mechanism of this segregation is not known, but the pattern demonstrates the need to consider population structure at nursery grounds in the application of marine spatial planning and other area-based conservation tools.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0292495
Issue number10
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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