Genetic analysis provides insights into species distribution and population structure in East Atlantic horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus and T. capensis)

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number14276
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Early online date07 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 07 Feb 2020
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Two sister species of horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus and T. capensis) are described that are intensively harvested in East Atlantic waters. To address long‐standing uncertainties as to their respective geographical ranges, overlap and intraspecific population structure this study combined genetic (mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite) analysis and targeted sampling of the hitherto understudied West African coast. mtDNA revealed two reciprocally monophyletic clades corresponding to each species with interspecies nuclear differentiation supported by FST values. The T. trachurus clade was found across the north‐east Atlantic down to Ghana but was absent from Angolan and South African samples. The T. capensis clade was found only in South Africa, Angola and a single Ghanaian individual. This pattern suggests that both species may overlap in the waters around Ghana. The potential for cryptic hybridization and/or indiscriminate harvesting of both species in the region is discussed. For T. capensis mtDNA supports high gene flow across the Benguela upwelling system, which fits with the species' ecology. The data add to evidence of a lack of significant genetic structure throughout the range of T. trachurus though the assumption of demographic panmixia is cautioned against. For both species, resolution of stock recruitment heterogeneity relevant to fishery management, as well as potential hybridization, will require more powerful genomic analyses.


  • biogeography, fish, genetic, species, stock, taxonomy