Scientia Marina, Vol 77, No 2 (2013)

Inter-population differences in otolith morphology are genetically encoded in the killifish Aphanius fasciatus (Cyprinodontiformes)

Ali Annabi
Laboratoire de Recherche: Génétique, Biodiversité et Valorisation des Bioressources (LR 11/ES 41), Institut Supérieur de Biotechnologie de Monastir, Université de Monastir, Tunisia

Khaled Said
Laboratoire de Recherche: Génétique, Biodiversité et Valorisation des Bioressources (LR 11/ES 41), Institut Supérieur de Biotechnologie de Monastir, Université de Monastir, Tunisia

Bettina Reichenbacher
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Palaeontology and Geobiology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany


Inter-population differences in otolith shape, morphology and chemistry have been used effectively as indicators for stock assessment or for recognizing environmental adaptation in fishes. However, the precise parameters that affect otolith morphology remain incompletely understood. Here we provide the first direct support for the hypothesis that inter-population differences in otolith morphology are genetically encoded. The study is based on otolith morphology and two mitochondrial markers (D-loop, 16S rRNA) of three natural populations of Aphanius fasciatus (Teleostei: Cyprinodontidae) from Southeast Tunisia. Otolith and genetic data yielded congruent tree topologies. Divergence of populations likely results from isolation events in the course of the Pleistocene sea level drops. We propose that otolith morphology is a valuable tool for resolving genetic diversity also within other teleost species, which may be important for ecosystem management and conservation of genetic diversity. As reconstructions of ancient teleost fish faunas are often solely based on fossil otoliths, our discoveries may also lead to a new approach to research in palaeontology.


Cyprinodontidae; phylogeography; gene flow; local adaptation; otolith morphometry; mitochondrial markers

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