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Open Access Research article

Mitochondrial and morphological variation of Tilapia zillii in Israel

Amir Szitenberg, Menachem Goren and Dorothée Huchon*

Author Affiliations

Department of Zoology, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, 69978, Israel

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:172  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-172

Published: 2 April 2012

Abstract

Background

Tilapia zillii is widespread in the East Levant inland aquatic systems as well as in artificial water reservoirs. In this study we explore the genetic and morphological variation of this widespread species, using mitochondrial control region sequences and meristic characters. We examine the hypothesis that T. zillii's population structure corresponds to the four Israeli aquatic systems.

Results

Out of seven natural water bodies, only two were found to possess genetically divergent populations of T. zillii. In addition to its presence in fish farms, the species was found in two artificial recreational ponds which were supposed to have been stocked only with other fish species. In these two artificial habitats, the haplotype frequencies diverged significantly from those of natural populations. Finally, fish from the Dead Sea springs of Ne'ot HaKikar appear to differ both genetically and morphologically from fish of the same aquatic system but not from fish of other water systems.

Conclusions

Our results show that the population structure of T. zillii does not match the geography of the Israeli water-basins, with the exception of the Dead Sea and Kishon River, when considering natural populations only. The absence of a significant divergence between basins is discussed. Our results and observations suggest that the Ne'ot HaKikar Dead Sea population and those of artificial ponds could have originated from the "hitchhiking" of T. zillii, at the expense of some other cultivated tilapiine species.

Keywords:
Tilapia zillii; Population genetics; Mitochondrial control region; Meristic counts