Marine Science Faculty Publications

DNA Barcoding Reveals Clear Delineation Between Spawning Sites for Neritic Versus Oceanic Fishes in the Gulf of Mexico

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We combined research‐vessel cruises of opportunity with DNA barcoding to survey planktonic, percomorph fish eggs at 40 stations distributed across and around the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). The objectives were (a) to determine whether eggs of fishes that are potential candidates for the daily egg production method (DEPM) can be readily barcoded, (b) to identify taxa that are spawning in the GoM, (c) to determine encounter rates for eggs of economically valuable taxa, and (d) to characterize individual egg taxa as being primarily neritic, primarily oceanic, or primarily mixed (i.e., both neritic and oceanic). Of the 1,144 eggs that were individually barcoded, 709 (62%) were definitively identified to species (62 species from 42 families), with an additional 20 taxa identified to genus or subfamily level. The eggs of 15 economically important species were identified, most of which had intermediate encounter rates and moderately dispersed spatial distributions, as indicated by an index of aggregation. SIMPROF analysis of stationwise cluster analysis identified eight significant groups within the 35 stations that yielded percomorph eggs; a corresponding specieswise analysis identified six groups of stations as having a neritic egg community and two groups as having an oceanic community, with a community transition located at the shelf break. Although the neritic and oceanic stations did not share important species, it remains possible that coastal pelagic species have mixed neritic–oceanic distributions. Together, these results indicate DEPM fish‐egg surveys based on DNA barcoding are feasible at the large marine ecosystem scale.

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Fisheries Oceanography, v. 28, issue 2, p. 228-239