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Genetic Diversity And Morphological Characterisation Of Three Turbot (Scophthalmus Maximus L., 1758) Populations Along The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast

Petya Ivanova, Nina Dzhembekova, Ivan Atanassov, Krasimir Rusanov, Violin Raykov, Ivelina Zlateva, Maria Yankova, Yordan Raev, Galin Nikolov

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Turbot (Scophthalmus maximusL., 1758) is a valuable commercial fish species classified as endangered. The conservation and sustainability of the turbot populations require knowledge of the population’s genetic structure and constant monitoring of its biodiversity. The present study was performed to evaluate the population structure of turbot along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast using seven pairs of microsatellites, two mitochondrial DNA (COIII and CR) and 23 morphological (15 morphometric and 8 meristic) markers. A total of 72 specimens at three locations were genotyped and 59 alleles were identified. The observed number of alleles of microsatellites was more than the effective number of alleles. The overall mean values of observed (Ho) and expected heterogeneity (He) were 0.638 and 0.685. A high rate of migration between turbot populations (overall mean of Nm = 17.484), with the maximum value (19.498) between Shabla and Nesebar locations, was observed. This result corresponded to the low level of genetic differentiation amongst these populations (overall mean Fst = 0.014), but there was no correlation between genetic and geographical distance. A high level of genetic diversity in the populations was also observed. The average Garza-Williamson M index value for all populations was low (0.359), suggesting a reduction in genetic variation due to a founder effect or a genetic bottleneck. Concerning mitochondrial DNA, a total number of 17 haplotypes for COIII and 41 haplotypes for CR were identified. The mitochondrial DNA control region showed patterns with high haplotype diversity and very low nucleotide diversity, indicating a significant number of closely-related haplotypes and suggesting that this population may have undergone a recent expansion. Tajima’s D test and Fu’s FS test suggested recent population growth. Pairwise Fst values were very low. The admixture and lack of genetic structuring found pointed to the populations analysed probably belonging to the same genetic unit. Therefore, a proper understanding and a sound knowledge of the level and distribution of genetic diversity in turbot is an important prerequisite for successful sustainable development and conservation strategies to preserve their evolutionary potential.