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PeerJ. 2016 Oct 12;4:e2438. eCollection 2016.

Diversity of planktonic fish larvae along a latitudinal gradient in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean estimated through DNA barcodes.

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USR 3278-CRIOBE-CNRS-EPHE, Laboratoire d'excellence "CORAIL", Université de Perpignan , Perpignan , France.
Biologia Animal, Universidad de Almeria , Almeria , Spain.
Department of Marine Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel , Brussels , Belgium.
Department of Functional Biology, University of Oviedo , Oviedo , Spain.


Mid-trophic pelagic fish are essential components of marine ecosystems because they represent the link between plankton and higher predators. Moreover, they are the basis of the most important fisheries resources; for example, in African waters. In this study, we have sampled pelagic fish larvae in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean along a latitudinal gradient between 37°N and 2°S. We have employed Bongo nets for plankton sampling and sorted visually fish and fish larvae. Using the cytochrome oxidase I gene (COI) as a DNA barcode, we have identified 44 OTUs down to species level that correspond to 14 families, with Myctophidae being the most abundant. A few species were cosmopolitan and others latitude-specific, as was expected. The latitudinal pattern of diversity did not exhibit a temperate-tropical cline; instead, it was likely correlated with environmental conditions with a decline in low-oxygen zones. Importantly, gaps and inconsistencies in reference DNA databases impeded accurate identification to the species level of 49% of the individuals. Fish sampled from tropical latitudes and some orders, such as Perciformes, Myctophiformes and Stomiiformes, were largely unidentified due to incomplete references. Some larvae were identified based on morphology and COI analysis for comparing time and costs employed from each methodology. These results suggest the need of reinforcing DNA barcoding reference datasets of Atlantic bathypelagic tropical fish that, as main prey of top predators, are crucial for ecosystem-based management of fisheries resources.


Atlantic Ocean; COI gene; DNA barcoding; Diversity; Pelagic fish larvae; Visual identification

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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