Populations of marine fish may lose genetic diversity even if fishing stops while there are still several million individuals – a number previously assumed to be enough to preserve a diverse gene pool.
Losing the diversity of key genes can render a population less productive and unable to adapt when faced with challenges such as global warming, pollution or changes in predators or prey. Rare genetic variation of little importance today might be the key to adaptability in the future, according to Lorenz Hauser, University of Washington assistant professor with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and lead author of a report recently published as part of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It could be that genetic diversity in a population needs to be considered when determining sustainable harvests for marine fish – fish such as snappers, rockfish and cod that spend their entire lives in the ocean. For some animals studied by conservation biologists, such as pandas and elephants, as few as 500 individuals appear to be enough to maintain rare variances.
Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
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