Thursday, 12 February 2015

New paper: burbot subspecies at the contact zone

In a recent collaboration with the First Nations Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, research about local fisheries of the Far North:

Hans Recknagel, Amy Amos & Kathryn R Elmer (2014) Morphological and ecological variation among populations and subspecies of Burbot (Lota lota) from the Mackenzie River Delta, Canada. CFN 128 (4)

The Mackenzie River Delta is a suture zone where many postglacial lineages come in contact as the Eurasian lineages reach east and south and North American lineages extended northward. We found considerable variability in ecological and morphological traits of burbot fishes in the region, and suggestion that that the different subspecies of burbot may exploit different niches. This is a new study following on earlier work that identified the first burbot subspecific contact zone and its asymmetric genetic admixture based on population genetics.

Quick dissemination of these findings were important because the Mackenzie River is under development pressure and decisions have to be made quickly by the local resources planners. The Gwich'in Renewables Resources Board had contacted us because were concerned at an increase in diseased fishes being caught in the area. Specifically, they wanted to identify if dispersal patterns might explain that worrying trend. Here we found that different communities of the Settlement Area probably have different subspecies of burbot, with the Eurasian subspecies being slightly different both genetically and phenotypically and restricted to the lower regions of the Mackenzie River Delta; thus they are probably not migrating to the higher reaches of the river.

We are very pleased that this work is published in Canada's flagship scientific natural history journal, with continuous publication since 1880 and now open access online. That means this collaborative work is accessible to all communities and resource planners, even in the most remote regions.

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