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Genetic Variation In Atlantic Cod (Gadus Morhua) Throughout Its Range

Jarle Mork, Nils Ryman, Gunnar Ståhl, Fred Utter, Gunnar Sundnes

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The amount of genetic differentiation between stocks of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) was estimated from electrophoretically detectable protein loci expressed in skeletal muscle and liver. Variant alleles at 13 of these loci were detected among nine samples covering most of the species range: North America, Greenland, Iceland, Barents Sea, Norwegian coastal waters, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea. A very low amount of genetic differentiation was observed among stocks. Only two loci (LDH-3 and PGI-1) showed large statistically significant heterogeneity of allele frequencies between samples. Standard genetic distances (Nei) between these samples based on 10 variable loci ranged from 0.00015 to 0.01072 with Baltic cod as the genetically most divergent sample. There was a highly significant correlation between genetic and geographic distance for the samples from the Atlantic suggesting that a substantial gene flow has occurred between these stocks with geographic distance being an inhibiting factor. The relatively larger genetic distance between the Baltic cod and other stocks may reflect isolation resulting from geographic and perhaps ecological barriers. However, the absolute amount of genetic differentiation in the Atlantic cod appears to be very low throughout its range.