Open Access Research article

A mitogenomic approach to the taxonomy of pollocks: Theragra chalcogramma and T. finnmarchica represent one single species

Anita Ursvik1, Ragna Breines1, Jørgen Schou Christiansen2, Svein-Erik Fevolden2, Dag H Coucheron1 and Steinar D Johansen13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Institute of Medical Biology, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway

2 Department of Aquatic BioSciences, Norwegian College of Fishery Science, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway

3 Department of Fisheries and Natural Sciences, Bodø University College, N-8049 Bodø, Norway

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-86

Published: 7 June 2007



The walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) and Norwegian pollock (T. finnmarchica) are confined to the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, respectively, and considered as distinct species within the family Gadidae. We have determined the complete mtDNA nucleotide sequence of two specimens of Norwegian pollock and compared the sequences to that of 10 specimens of walleye pollock representing stocks from the Sea of Japan and the Bering Sea, 2 specimens of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), and 2 specimens of haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus).


A total number of 204 variable positions were identified among the 12 pollock specimens, but no specific substitution pattern could be identified between the walleye and Norwegian pollocks. Phylogenetic analysis using 16.500 homologous mtDNA nucleotide positions clearly identify the Norwegian pollock within the walleye pollock species cluster. Furthermore, the Norwegian pollock sequences were most similar to mitochondrial genotypes present in walleye pollock specimens from the Sea of Japan, an observation supported both by neighbor-joining, maximum parsimony, and maximum likelihood analyses.


We infer that walleye pollock and Norwegian pollock represent one single species and that Norwegian pollock has been recently introduced from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans.