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Genetic Structure of Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean Sea Correlates with Environmental Variables

November 29, 2013

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABFT) shows complex demography and ecological variation in the Mediterranean Sea. Genetic surveys have detected significant, although weak, signals of population structuring; catch series analyses and tagging programs identified complex ABFT spatial dynamics and migration patterns. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the genetic structure of the ABFT in the Mediterranean is correlated with mean surface temperature and salinity.

We used six samples collected from Western and Central Mediterranean integrated with a new sample collected from the recently identified easternmost reproductive area of Levantine Sea. To assess population structure in the Mediterranean we used a multidisciplinary framework combining classical population genetics, spatial and Bayesian clustering methods and a multivariate approach based on factor analysis.


FST analysis and Bayesian clustering methods detected several subpopulations in the Mediterranean, a result also supported by multivariate analyses. In addition, we identified significant correlations of genetic diversity with mean salinity and surface temperature values revealing that ABFT is genetically structured along two environmental gradients. These results suggest that a preference for some spawning habitat conditions could contribute to shape ABFT genetic structuring in the Mediterranean. However, further studies should be performed to assess to what extent ABFT spawning behaviour in the Mediterranean Sea can be affected by environmental variation.

Riccioni G, Stagioni M, Landi M, Ferrara G, Barbujani G, et al., 2013, Genetic Structure of Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean Sea Correlates with Environmental Variables, PLoS ONE 8, 11, e80105, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080105. Article.


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