Characterizing Bermuda's baitfish populations to improve management and fishery sustainability.
Baitfish is the term for smaller fish like anchovies and fry that fisherman use to bait the larger fish. Hence the name, baitfish. In Bermuda there are several different genuses of baitfish, you will seen them in bays in large schools like the photo above. But in those large schools, there are multiple species, which makes it harder to identify and get an idea of how a specific population is doing. Over the last 25 years, reports of populations have been changing but we’re not sure if that is because of decreasing populations or changes in fishery practices. So big picture, we want to find a happy medium between preservation and fishery management/recreation. We want these species to keep fulfilling their ecological role, but also want to improve the management of the rules and regulations. At the end of this project, the Bermuda Government and the Aquarium's goal is to come up with an improved management plan with an ecosystem-based approach that promotes a sustainable fishery for these species.
We took tissue samples (100+ individuals from 10 locations across the island) and looked at their DNA sequences. With these sequences we can look at population genetics, which deals with genetics differences within and between populations. And with that you can look further into changes in genetic composition like gene frequencies. Genetic barcoding to determine taxonomic identity - which focuses on using a short genetic marker, which in our case is a universal gene called CO1. It’s commonly used in genetic barcoding to identify the sample to species level. Baitfish can be visually identified, but genetic barcoding is more accurate. We’ll also be sequencing the mitochondrial DNA markers. This analysis will give the within-population genetic diversity and connectivity for all of our focal species. The connectivity part means we’re comparing populations to see if there are any similarities that might indicate interactions between individuals of different populations. In order words, how similar or different are their sequences to each other. For example, we would be able to assess the gene flow between groups or if fish stay with the same school at a certain location. At end of the project we hope to be uploading the sequences to publicly available databases for use in future research, not just in bermuda but around the world.
Below are depictions of the following processes: Qiagen DNA Extraction, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Gel Electrophoresis, DNA Sequencher, Mega7 Analysis
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