Biocomplexity in a highly migratory pelagic marine fish, Atlantic herring.

D. E. Ruzzante, S. Mariani, D. Bekkevold, C. Andre, H. Mosegaard, L. A. W. Clausen, T. G. Dahlgren, W. F. Hutchinson, E. M. C. Hatfield, E. Torstensen, J. Brigham, E. J. Simmonds, L. Laikre, L. C. Larsson, Rene Josephus Maria Stet, N. Ryman, G. R. Carvalho

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    204 Citations (Scopus)


    The existence of biologically differentiated populations has been credited with a major role in conferring sustainability and in buffering overall productivity of anadromous fish population complexes where evidence for spatial structure is uncontroversial. Here, we describe evidence of correlated genetic and life history (spawning season linked to spawning location) differentiation in an abundant and highly migratory pelagic fish, Atlantic herring, Clupea harengus, in the North Sea (NS) and adjacent areas. The existence of genetically and phenotypically diverse stocks in this region despite intense seasonal mixing strongly implicates natal homing in this species. Based on information from genetic markers and otolith morphology, we estimate the proportional contribution by NS, Skagerrak (SKG) and Kattegat and western Baltic (WBS) fish to mixed aggregations targeted by the NS fishery. We use these estimates to identify spatial and temporal differences in life history (migratory behaviour) and habitat use among genetically differentiated migratory populations that mix seasonally. Our study suggests the existence of more complex patterns of intraspecific diversity than was previously recognized. Sustainability may be compromised if such complex patterns are reduced through generalized management (e.g. area closures) that overlooks population differences in spatial use throughout the life cycle.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1459-1464
    Number of pages5
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


    • homing
    • genetic mixture analysis
    • diversity conservation
    • pelagic fisheries


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