Population Genetics of Lamprey in California
Lampreys, a group of jawless, eel-like fishes, are extant representatives of the first known vertebrates. Survival to modern times depended on lampreys’ parasitic strategy; however, multiple non-parasitic species have evolved. One current complication to lamprey population genetic research is the difficulty in determining an accurate species identification based on morphological features at the larval and juvenile life stages. At least six species of lamprey (Entosphenus spp. and Lampetra spp.) occur in California watersheds, and multiple species’ ranges overlap. All are listed as California Species of Special Concern; yet, little is known about the interspecific and intraspecific genetic structure of lamprey populations throughout the state.
In our pilot study, we applied restriction-site associated DNA sequencing (RADseq) to lamprey samples (N=480) collected opportunistically through several ongoing salmon surveys. Our dataset captures individuals from various species, life stages, and geographic locations. This study (in progress) aims to capture a snapshot of the genetic composition and relationships of California’s central valley lamprey at both the species and population level. Future work includes the development of SNP markers to distinguish between all lamprey species in California. This will improve our ability to assess population structure and estimate genetic differentiation among parasitic and non-parasitic lampreys.