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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34485. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034485. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Interspecific hybridization increased in congeneric flatfishes after the Prestige oil spill.

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  • 1Department of Functional Biology, University of Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain.


Marine species with relatively low migratory capacity are threatened by habitat alterations derived from human activities. In November 2002 the tanker Prestige sank off the Spanish northwest coast releasing 70,000 tons of fuel and damaging biota in the area. Despite efforts to clean the damaged areas, fuel remnants have affected marine species over the last nine years. This study is focused on two flatfish, Lepidorhombus boscii (four-spotted megrim) and L. whiffiagonis (megrim), whose spawning areas are located at the edge of the continental platform. We have analyzed megrim samples from North Spanish and French waters obtained before and after the oil spill. Genotypes at the nuclear marker 5S rDNA indicate a significant increase in interspecific hybridization after the Prestige accident, likely due to forced spawning overlap. The mitochondrial D-Loop region was employed for determining the direction of hybrid crosses, which were most frequently L. boscii female x L. whiffiagonis male. Reduced ability of L. boscii females to select conspecific mates would explain such asymmetric hybridization. To our knowledge this is the first time that increased hybridization between fish species can be associated to an oil spill. These results illustrate the potential long-term effect of petrol wastes on wild fish species.

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