Characterisation of the Mitochondrial Genome and the Phylogeographic Structure of Blue Cod (Parapercis colias)
This thesis primarily addresses the genetic population structure of blue cod (Parapercis colias) in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone, within which approximately 2800 Tonnes of the endemic fish are harvested annually. Several regions with traditionally healthy blue cod stocks have recently experienced localised depletion due to over-exploitation. This highlights the importance for a clearer understanding of the genetic structure of the species in order to maximise the potential for the fishery to be managed sustainably. Also covered within this thesis are characteristics of the blue cod's mitochondrial genome, and development of a set of genetic tools that can improve the level of understanding for several important fisheries species in New Zealand waters. Chapter two focuses on the characterisation of the blue cod mitochondrial genome, with the use of second-generation sequencing providing the first fully documented sequence for this species. The blue cod mitochondrial genome is identical in organisation to several other documented fish species' mitochondrial genomes, with no unexpected results. Also dealt with in Chapter two is the development and implementation of a set of generic control region primers, designed primarily for use on commercially important inshore New Zealand fish species. Nine of the eleven species which the primer was tested on had the targeted region successfully amplified, though heteroplasmy may be present in at least four species. Chapter three reports the bulk of this research, with the phylogeographic structure of blue cod investigated. Samples were taken from the pectoral and pelvic fins of blue cod from 14 sites around New Zealand. A total of 475 sequences were taken from the hypervariable 5' end of the control region, with each sequence 491 bp in length. The null hypothesis of genetic homogeneity throughout their distribution was rejected, with significant differentiation observed between mainland New Zealand and Chatham Island samples. While pairwise differences between mainland New Zealand sampling sites was limited, a significant trend of isolation by distance was observed. A demographic population expansion occurred more steeply and more recently in mainland populations, with a slower growth curve in Chatham Island populations. With a trend of isolation by distance present between mainland sampling sites, it is suggested that further investigations are made, utilising genetic markers capable of resolving deeper patterns of genetic structure within the population (e.g. microsatellites, SNP's). Finally, Chapter four summarises and contextualises the results from the research components of this thesis, discussing management implications and potential threats to both the commercial and recreational blue cod fishery. A key area of focus for this section is the genetic and demographic risk that the population may face with continued targeting of larger individuals, given the biological trait of protogynous hermaphroditism in the species.