Direct and social genetic parameters for growth and fin damage traits in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua).

H.M. Nielsen, B.B. Monsen, J. Odegard, P. Bijma, B. Damsgard, H. Toften, I. Olesen

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Background The aim of the study was to estimate genetic parameters for direct and social genetic effects (SGE) for growth and welfare traits in farmed Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). A SGE refers to the effect of an individual’s genes on trait performance of its social partners. In total, 2100 individually tagged juveniles from 100 families at an average age of 222 days post-hatching were used. Each family was separated into three groups of seven fish, and were randomly assigned to 100 experimental tanks, together with fish from two other families. Body weight and length of the first, second and third dorsal fin and the caudal fin measured by digital image analysis were measured at the start of the experiment, after two weeks, and after six weeks. Fin erosion was scored subjectively after six weeks. Variance components estimated using a conventional animal model were compared to those of an animal model including a SGE. Results Heritabilities from the conventional animal model ranged from 0.24 to 0.34 for body weight and 0.05 to 0.80 for fin length. Heritabilities for fin erosion were highest for the first dorsal fin (0.83¿±¿0.08, mean¿±¿standard error) and lowest for the third dorsal fin (0.01¿±¿0.04). No significant SGE were found for body weight, whereas SGE for fin lengths were significant after two and six weeks. Contributions to the total heritable variance were equal to 21.5% (6.1¿±¿2.1) for the direct effect, 33.1% (9.4¿±¿3.2) for the direct-social covariance, and 45.4% (12.9¿±¿4.1) for the social variance for length of the first dorsal fin. For fin erosion, SGE were only significant for the second and third dorsal fin. Conclusions Including SGE for fin length and fin erosion in the animal model increased the estimated heritable variation. However, estimates of total heritable variances were inaccurate and a larger experiment is needed to accurately quantify total heritable variance. Despite this, our results demonstrate that considering social breeding values for fin length or fin erosion when selecting fish will enable us to improve response to selection for welfare traits in Atlantic cod juveniles.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages11
JournalGenetics, Selection, Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • selection incorporating interaction
  • multilevel selection
  • variance-components
  • heritable variation
  • survival
  • individuals
  • cannibalism
  • juveniles
  • designs
  • length


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