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The importance of genetic cluster recognition for the conservation of migratory fish species: the example of the endangered European huchen Hucho hucho (L.)

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European huchen Hucho hucho (L.) is an endangered flagship species, which is endemic to the Danube drainage in central Europe. To date, no genetic information has been available as a basis for ongoing conservation and breeding programmes for the species. It is suspected that most populations in the wild share one common gene pool and that they exclusively depend on stocking with hatchery fish. In this study, highly variable microsatellite markers were established and the genetic diversity and differentiation from four important hatchery-reared stocks were compared with that of eight H. hucho populations sampled in the wild. Overall, eight genetic clusters with a moderate to very great degree of genetic differentiation and high assignment rates were identified. Each cluster contained individuals from two to 10 different populations and 9–100% of specimens from hatchery stocks. It is proposed that genetic cluster-based management in the conservation of European huchen is advantageous compared with the consideration of single local populations. A combined approach of maintaining the evolutionary potential of wild populations and genetically variable hatchery stocks can maximize the conservation of the species' evolutionary potential.

Keywords: Danube salmon; conservation prioritization; endemic species; microsatellite; salmonid conservation; supportive breeding

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2009.02377.x

Affiliations: 1: Unit of Functional Aquatic Ecology and Fish Biology, Department of Animal Science, Technische Universität München, D-85350 Freising, Germany 2: Fischereiforschungsstelle des Landes Baden-Württemberg, Argenweg 50/1, D-88085 Langenargen, Germany

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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