Monday December 12, 2022


Scientists often assume that in the vast oceans, fish can travel far and wide and, as a result, different populations of a species would mix freely. However, according to a new study led by the University of Connecticut (UConn), this does not appear to be the case for a vital forage fish called the sand lance, a species of small schooling fish that is impressively rich in lipids, which makes them a significant food source for over 70 different species ranging from whales and sharks to seabirds. 

The experts were interested to see if sand lance constitute a massive, homogeneous population, or whether there are genetically distinct groups among them. These are crucial questions to ask when it comes to the conservation and sustainable management of this species, since, due to climate change, the regions where sand lance live are warming faster than many other places on Earth.

By sequencing and analyzing nearly 300 samples from a variety of locations across this species’ range through a technique called “low-coverage whole genomic sequencing,” the scientists found an area on the Scotian Shelf (off the coast of Nova Scotia), where a genetic break appeared to occur between two different sand lance populations. 

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