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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Temporally stable, weak genetic structuring in brackish water northern pike (Esox lucius) in the Baltic Sea indicates a contrasting divergence pattern relative to freshwater populations

Wennerstrom, Lovisa; Olsson, Jens; Ryman, Nils; Laikre, Linda


Understanding spatiotemporal population genetic patterns is important for conservation management of ecologically and socioeconomically important species. This is particularly so in species-poor environments such as the brackish Baltic Sea. We examined over 600 northern pike (Esox lucius), a coastal predator and treasured sport fish, collected over major parts of the Baltic Sea coastline. We found low genetic divergence among populations, indicating a contrasting genetic structure of brackish water coastal spawners compared with previous reports on anadromous Baltic pike migrating up freshwater streams for spawning. A pattern of genetic isolation by distance either over shortest waterway or primarily along the mainland coast with islands as stepping stones suggested that gene flow is primarily taking place among neighboring populations, possibly with some migration over open water. Temporal data showed a stable genetic structure over a decade. Within a single sampling year, however, spatial divergence was larger during spawning than feeding season, indicating increased mixing of populations during the feeding season. Management should assure connectivity among brackish spawning grounds and large population sizes at identified core areas.

Published in

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
2017, Volume: 74, number: 4, pages: 562-571

    Associated SLU-program

    Coastal and sea areas

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG14 Life below water

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Other Natural Sciences not elsewhere specified

    Publication identifier


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