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Genetics. 1995 Jan;139(1):375-85.

Genetic population structure and gene flow in the Atlantic cod Gadus morhua: a comparison of allozyme and nuclear RFLP loci.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, England.


High levels of gene flow have been implicated in producing uniform patterns of allozyme variation among populations of many marine fish species. We have examined whether gene flow is responsible for the limited population structure in the Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua L., by comparing the previously published patterns of variation at 10 allozyme loci to 17 nuclear restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) loci scored by 11 anonymous cDNA clones. Unlike the allozyme loci, highly significant differences were observed among all populations at the DNA markers in a pattern consistent with an isolation-by-distance model of population structure. The magnitude of allele frequency variation at the nuclear RFLP loci significantly exceeded that observed at the protein loci (chi 2 = 24.6, d.f. = 5, P < 0.001). Estimates of gene flow from the private alleles method were similar for the allozymes and nuclear RFLPs. From the infinite island model, however, estimates of gene flow from the DNA markers were fivefold lower than indicated by the proteins. The discrepancy between gene flow estimates, combined with the observation of a large excess of rare RFLP alleles, suggests that the Atlantic cod has undergone a recent expansion in population size and that populations are significantly displaced from equilibrium. Because gene flow is a process that affects all loci equally, the heterogeneity observed among populations at the DNA level eliminates gene flow as the explanation for the homogeneous allozyme patterns. Our results suggest that a recent origin of cod populations has acted to constrain the extent of population differentiation observed at weakly polymorphic loci and implicate a role for selection in affecting the distribution of protein variation among natural populations in this species.

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