Marine Biology

, Volume 125, Issue 1, pp 11-22

First online:

Mitochondrial control region variability and global population structure in the swordfish, Xiphias gladius

  • P. E. RoselAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Biological Sciences Center, University of New Hampshire
  • , B. A. BlockAffiliated withHopkins Marine Station, Stanford University

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Little is known about what limits genetic exchange in highly vagile, open ocean vertebrate species, such as the swordfish Xiphias gladius L. Reduced abundance of swordfish in some regions, and increased fishing pressure in others, has raised concerns and fueled interest in a more complete evaluation of the resource. In this study, global population structure in swordfish was assessed by sequencing a 300 base pair segment of the 5′ end of mitochondrial DNA control region from 159 swordfish collected in three ocean basins: the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Pacific, over the years 1988 to 1994. Among the 159 individuals, 95 polymorphic sites delineated 121 unique haplotypes, indicating a high level of polymorphism on a global scale. A phylogenetic analysis of the unique DNA haplotypes revealed two divergent clades with differing geographic distributions. Phylogeographic concordance of this pattern with that of two other pelagic fish species suggests a biogeographic explanation for this structure. An analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed significant geographic partitioning of molecular variation among the three ocean basins, indicating that swordfish populations are structured on a global scale. Estimates of genetic exchange among populations within an ocean basin were high, indicating panmixia within ocean basins. Since the haplotypic diversity exhibited by the swordfish control regions is extremely high, much larger sample sizes may be necessary to detect subdivision within ocean basins.