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Heredity (Edinb). 2009 Jul;103(1):82-9. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2009.51. Epub 2009 May 6.

Panmixia in European eel revisited: no genetic difference between maturing adults from southern and northern Europe.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, Section of Population Biology and Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Previous studies of genetic structure in the European eel have resulted in seemingly conflicting results, ranging from no detectable heterogeneity to small but statistically significant differences and isolation by distance patterns among eels sampled across the continental range. Differences with respect to sampling design and choice of molecular markers, combined with a lack of power estimates, complicate comparisons of existing results. In this study we have used six microsatellite markers and, for the first time, compared maturing silver eels of known age from southern and northern Europe (Italy and Baltic Sea). In comparison with previous studies, our data may give a better representation of potential spawning stocks because eels were sampled when having begun their migration toward the presumed spawning area in the Sargasso Sea. Despite large sample sizes (404 and 806 individuals) we could not observe any signs of genetic differentiation (average F(ST)=-0.00003, P=0.61), and a power analysis showed that the true level of heterogeneity (if existing) must be exceedingly small to have remained undetected (say, F(ST) <0.0004). A tendency for slightly increased genetic differences between cohorts over time could be seen, but the amount of temporal change was minor and not statistically significant. Our findings reiterate the notion that previous reports of continental genetic differentiation in the European eel may be largely explained by uncontrolled temporal variation between juvenile glass eel samples.

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