Where do you come from, where do you go: early life stage drift and migrations of cod inferred from otolith microchemistry and genetic population assignment

Publication: Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
8 July 2021


This study investigates stock mixing of genetically distinct Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) stocks in the Kattegat, an area geographically located between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, by combining genetic population identification with habitat assignments from hatch to capture from otolith microchemistry. Cod captured in Kattegat were genetically assigned to either the North Sea or the endemic Kattegat population. Otolith chemical fingerprints differed significantly between populations during the larval and pelagic juvenile stage with higher strontium and lower barium and manganese concentrations in the North Sea population than the Kattegat population, indicating that North Sea cod are spawned in the North Sea or Skagerrak and drift into the Kattegat during the early life stages. Individual cod of both populations undertook frequent, but predominantly short-term, migrations to other areas than the Kattegat, with <25% of individuals remaining resident within the Kattegat throughout their life. Across seasons and age classes, the two populations were both most frequently distributed in the Kattegat (67%), with approximately 25% of both population distributed in the western Baltic Sea and less than 10% in the Skagerrak–North Sea. This study demonstrates the usefulness of this approach to infer population-specific connectivity and migration trajectories for individual fish and its potential applications in basic and applied fields of fish ecology and fisheries sciences.

Graphical Abstract


La présente étude se penche sur le mélange de stocks de morues (Gadus morhua) génétiquement distincts dans le Kattegat, une région située entre la mer du Nord et la mer Baltique, en combinant l’identification génétique à la population et l’affectation d’habitats de l’éclosion à la capture, à la lumière de la microchimie des otolites. Les morues capturées dans le Kattegat sont affectées génétiquement soit à la population de la mer du Nord ou à la population endémique au Kattegat. Les empreintes digitales chimiques des otolites des différentes populations diffèrent significativement aux étapes larvaire et pélagique juvénile, alors que les individus de la population de la mer du Nord présentent des concentrations plus élevées de strontium et plus faibles de baryum et de manganèse que ceux de la population du Kattegat, ce qui indique que les morues de la mer du Nord sont originaires de la mer du Nord ou du Skagerrak et dérivent jusque dans le Kattegat durant les premières étapes de la vie. Des individus des deux populations entreprennent des migrations fréquentes, mais la plupart du temps de courte durée, vers d’autres régions que le Kattegat, moins de 25 % des individus résidant toute leur vie dans le Kattegat. D’une saison et d’une classe d’âge à l’autre, les individus des deux populations se retrouvent le plus souvent dans le Kattegat (67 %), environ 25 % des individus des deux populations se trouvant dans l’ouest de la mer Baltique et moins de 10 %, dans le Skagerrak–la mer du Nord. L’étude démontre l’utilité de cette approche pour inférer la connectivité de populations et les trajectoires de migration des poissons individuels, ainsi que ses applications possibles dans des domaines fondamentaux et appliqués de l’écologie des poissons et des sciences halieutiques. [Traduit par la Rédaction]

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cover image Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume 79Number 2February 2022
Pages: 300 - 313


Received: 30 October 2020
Accepted: 11 June 2021
Published online: 8 July 2021


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Karin Hüssy kh@aqua.dtu.dk
National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Kemitorvet, building 201, Lyngby Campus, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark.
Christoffer Moesgaard Albertsen
National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Kemitorvet, building 201, Lyngby Campus, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark.
Jakob Hemmer-Hansen
National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Vejlsøvej 39, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark.
Morten Vinther
National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Kemitorvet, building 201, Lyngby Campus, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark.
Simon Hansen Serre
Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Øster Voldgade 10, DK-1350 Copenhagen K., Denmark.
Tonny Bernt Thomsen
Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Øster Voldgade 10, DK-1350 Copenhagen K., Denmark.
Margit Eero
National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Kemitorvet, building 201, Lyngby Campus, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark.

Funding Information

The study was supported by the Danish Ministry for Environment and Food and the European Maritime Fisheries Fond through the projects “Sustainable management of Kattegat cod; better know-ledge of stock components and migration” (grant No. 33113-B-16–034) and “Management of mixed cod stocks in the transition zone between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea: How can this be achieved most efficiently?” (grant No. 33113-B-19–140).

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