Zoological Studies

Vol. 54, 2015

Population structure of Hirundichthys oxycephalus in the northwestern Pacific inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene

Chang-En Chou1,†, Te-Yu Liao2,†, Hsueh-Wen Chang1,*, and Shui-Kai Chang3,*

1Department of Biological Sciences, National Sun Yat-sen University, 70, Lien-hai Road, Kaohsiung 804, Taiwan
2Department of Oceanography, National Sun Yat-sen University, 70, Lien-hai Road, Kaohsiung 804, Taiwan
3Institute of Marine Affairs, National Sun Yat-sen University, 70, Lien-hai Road, Kaohsiung 804, Taiwan

Background: Hirundichthys oxycephalus is an important flyingfish resource in eastern Taiwan and northwestern Japan. A substantial catch decline in Taiwan has caused serious concerns on stock status of the fish, prompting the government to impose a set of regulations on flyingfish egg fishery since 2008. However, the regulations were set in a precautionary manner, without considering the fundamental understanding of the population genetic structure. This study aims to investigate the population genetic structure of H. oxycephalus in the region based on mtDNA cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene and to thus provide scientific information for sustainable management of the resource.
Results: Tissue samples (156) from six localities of eastern Taiwan and western Japan were collected, and 616 bp of mtDNA COI gene were sequenced. Seventy haplotypes were determined, and the haplotype diversity and nucleotide diversity were estimated as 0.93% and 0.57%, respectively. Results of various statistical analyses suggested that the genetic differentiations among the six localities were small and most variation occurred within populations, indicating a high gene flow in the region with undergoing population expansion. Although the study showed that the fishes were genetically divided into two groups, the support was low and the separation was not geologically evident.
Conclusions: The study revealed two groups of H. oxycephalus in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. However, due to high gene flow, an association of either group to a spatial distribution was not observed, and so the two groups may be considered as one population. Thus, the results favored the conclusion that H. oxycephalus from eastern Taiwan and western Japan belong to the same population and, consequently, that the management unit of the current regulations only covering eastern Taiwan does not match the spatial structure of the population. Rather, the results suggest that joint efforts from countries within the population boundary are necessary to maintain a sustainable exploitation.

Key words: Ecological population; Flyingfish; Taiwan; Northwestern Pacific; COI.

*Correspondence: E-mail: hwchang@mail.nsysu.edu.tw; skchang@faculty.nsysu.edu.tw
Equal contributors