Pacific halibut collected in the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska were used to test the hypothesis of genetic panmixia for this species in Alaskan marine waters. Nine microsatellite loci and sequence data from the mitochondrial (mtDNA) control region were analyzed. Eighteen unique mtDNA haplotypes were found with no evidence of geographic population structure. Using nine microsatellite loci, significant heterogeneity was detected between Aleutian Island Pacific halibut and fish from the other two regions (FST range = 0.007–0.008). Significant FST values represent the first genetic evidence of divergent groups of halibut in the central and western Aleutian Archipelago. No significant genetic differences were found between Pacific halibut in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea leading to questions about factors contributing to separation of Aleutian halibut. Previous studies have reported Aleutian oceanographic conditions at deep inter-island passes leading to ecological discontinuity and unique community structure east and west of Aleutian passes. Aleutian Pacific halibut genetic structure may result from oceanographic transport mechanisms acting as partial barriers to gene flow with fish from other Alaskan waters.
Additional publication details
Fine-scale population genetic structure in Alaskan Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis)