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Micro-geographic population genetic structure within Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) in Beaufort Sea of Alaska

February 19, 2019

Many marine organisms show significant levels of genetic heterogeneity on local spatial scales despite exhibiting limited genetic structure at large geographic scales which can be produced through a variety of mechanisms. The Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) is a circumpolar species and is a vital species in Arctic food webs. To examine population genetic structure of Arctic cod at macro- and micro-geographic scales, we characterized variation at mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and microsatellite loci among Arctic cod located in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska. We found two distinct mtDNA haplotype clusters, although there was no underlying geographic pattern (FST = −0.001). Congruent with this finding, microsatellite loci suggested a panmictic population (FST = 0.001) across northern Alaskan marine waters at a large spatial scale. However, we found slight but significant micro-geographic partitioning of genetic variation in the southern shelf of the Beaufort Sea that appeared to be associated with the western reaches of the Mackenzie River plume. This fine-scale spatial pattern was not associated with kin-associated groups, suggesting larvae cohorts are not remaining together throughout development. We hypothesize that this pattern reflects the intermixing of Pacific and Arctic origin lineages of Arctic cod.