Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 1571–1579 | Cite as

Otolith variation in Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) reflects mitogenomic variation rather than the subspecies classification

  • Lísa Anne Libungan
  • Aril Slotte
  • Edward O. Otis
  • Snæbjörn Pálsson
Original Paper


Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) is divided into three subspecies: two in northeast Europe and one in the north Pacific Ocean. Genetic studies have indicated that the populations in northeast Europe have derived from the northwest Pacific herring recently, or during the last 10–15 kyr, and that they are distinct from the population in the northeast Pacific. In addition, hybridization between the Pacific herring and the Atlantic herring has been documented. Otolith variation has been considered to be largely affected by environmental variation, but here we evaluate whether the genetic differentiation is reflected in otolith shape differences. A clear difference in otolith shape was observed between the genetically differentiated herring species Clupea harengus from the Atlantic and C. pallasii. The otolith shape of C. p. suworowi in the Barents Sea was different from the shape of C. pallasii in northern Norway and C. p. pallasii from the Pacific. Populations of C. p. pallasii, sampled east and west of the Alaska Peninsula, which belong to two genetically different clades of the C. p. pallasii in the Pacific Ocean, show a clear difference in otolith shape. C. p. suworowi and the local C. pallasii peripheral population in Balsfjord in northern Norway are more similar to the northwest Pacific herring (C. p. pallasii) than to the northeast Pacific herring (C. p. pallasii), both genetically and in otolith shape. The Balsfjord population, known to be influenced by introgression of mtDNA from the Atlantic herring, does not show any sign of admixture in otolith shape between the two species. A revised classification, considering the observed genetic and morphological evidence, should rather group the northwest Pacific herring in the Bering Sea together with the European populations of C. pallasii than with the northeast Pacific herring in the Gulf of Alaska.


Herring Subspecies Classification Otolith shape 



Torstein Pedersen at the University of Tromsø is thanked for providing the samples from Balsfjord in Norway. Ole Ingar Paulsen at the Institute of Marine Research in Norway is thanked for allozyme analysis, splitting out Norwegian spring spawning herring (C. harengus) from Balsfjord herring (C. pallasii) in Balsfjord. This work was funded by the Assistant teacher’s grant of the University of Iceland.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lísa Anne Libungan
    • 1
  • Aril Slotte
    • 2
    • 3
  • Edward O. Otis
    • 4
  • Snæbjörn Pálsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  2. 2.Institute of Marine ResearchBergenNorway
  3. 3.Hjort Centre for Marine Ecosystem DynamicsBergenNorway
  4. 4.Alaska Department of Fish and GameHomerUSA

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