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Molecular techniques for studies of species and populations

Studies of DNA can be used to characterize species, and delineate populations, and MAR-ECO will use modern molecular techniques to address several questions:

  • Are the populations of a species inhabiting different parts of the mid-Atlantic Ridge distinct?
  • Are they inter-related via "stepping stone" migration patterns?
  • How do climate and current patterns influence diversity and dispersal patterns?
  • Do thermal boundaries, such as the sub-polar front, restrict gene flow?

Researchers have developed kits that have been sent to researchers around the Atlantic. They have already collected many samples from a broad geographic range for a number of different fish species.


1. Identify stock structure in deep-sea fishes, including aggregating and
dispersed commercial target species such as alfonsino, orange roughy, black
scabbardfish, roundnosed grenadier, blue whiting and others.
2. Examine the distribution of genetic diversity (a basic unit of biodiversity), and the evolution (phylogeny) of deep-sea species.


  • There is genetic differentiation between populations of commercially valuable deep-sea fish species on regional scales, supporting preliminary findings on genetic diversity of related species, especially in the Southern Pacific.
  • Climatic history and present patterns of currents in the North Atlantic have influenced the diversity, dispersal and spatial genetic structure of some species.
  • Thermal boundaries, such as the sub-polar front, restrict gene flow.


Apply molecular genetics for analysing population structure in aggregating and dispersed fish species.
Commercially important fish-species will be included both on the MAR and along continental slopes.


  • Mitochondrial DNA markers.
  • Nuclear DNA markers (especially microsatellite DNA and Single Nucleotide Poymorphism).
  • Phylogenetic and population genetic algorithms.


Sampling of reference material: 2002-2003, Sampling on the MAR, extraction of DNA and analyses: 2003-2005, Further analyses, dissemination, and provision of data to OBIS and others: 2005-2008.


MAR-ECO grant for the initiation of opportunistic sampling of reference material, and for utilizing sampling opportunities on Icelandic, Russian, Norwegian and UK vessels in 2003-2004, OASIS Project activities at Sedlo Seamount, labour and other costs. IMR Norway has also initiated and funded a study of tusk and ling, including samples
from the MAR.


Principal Investigator: A. Rus Hoelzel, United Kingdom

Halvor Knutsen, Per Erik Jorde, Nils Chr. Stenseth (Norway), S. Stefanni (Portugal), and associated Geir Dahle (IMR). The partnership may grow if external funding becomes available. A number of other partners have been and will be contributing samples and these are essential for the success of the component.

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