Population structure of the thornback ray (Raja clavata L.) in British waters

M. Chevolot, J.R. Ellis, G. Hoarau, A.D. Rijnsdorp, W.T. Stam, J.L. Olsen

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Prior to the 1950s, thornback ray (Raja clavata L.) was common and widely distributed in the seas of Northwest Europe. Since then, it has decreased in abundance and geographic range due to over-fishing. The sustainability of ray populations is of concern to fisheries management because their slow growth rate, late maturity and low fecundity make them susceptible to exploitation as victims of by-catch. We investigated the population genetic structure of thornback rays from 14 locations in the southern North Sea, English Channel and Irish Sea. Adults comprised <4% of the total sampling despite heavy sampling effort over 47 hauls; thus our results apply mainly to sexually immature individuals. Using five microsatellite loci, weak but significant population differentiation was detected with a global FST = 0.013 (P <0.001). Pairwise Fst was significant for 75 out of 171 comparisons. Although earlier tagging studies suggest restricted foraging distances from home areas, the absence of genetic differentiation between some distant populations suggests that a substantial fraction of individuals migrate over wide areas. Autumn/winter locations appear to have a lower level of differentiation than spring/summer, which could be due to seasonal migration. Management and conservation of thornback ray populations will be challenging as population structure appears to be dynamic in space and time
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-316
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • cod gadus-morhua
  • pleuronectes-platessa l.
  • southern north-sea
  • gulf-of-mexico
  • genetic-structure
  • atlantic cod
  • multilocus genotypes
  • microsatellite data
  • geographic scales
  • reaction norms


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