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DNA-based Family Identification for Atlantic Salmon Selective Breedings Programs in British Columbia



In this project, we will introduce the use of highly polymorphic microsatellite loci in BC Atlantic salmon strains for molecular identification of offspring to their parents in the ongoing selective breeding program (SBP) managed by Heritage Salmon. This will enable the communal rearing of juveniles from between 150 and 200 fullsib families, eliminating the need for single family tanks in the hatchery. Specifically, we will use tissue samples from all parents spawned in 2004 in the Heritage SBP and from 6000 of their progeny sampled before transfer to saltwater to identify the progeny to family (i.e. the correct pair of parents). The juveniles will be tagged at the time of tissue sampling for subsequent identification to family, allowing future data collection and spawning to be carried out with full pedigree knowledge. The large number of polymorphic microsatellite loci available for use in Atlantic salmon and moderate levels of allelic diversity for these loci in Atlantic salmon of the BC aquaculture industry (Withler et al. in press) provides an extremely high level of resolution for genetic identification of family membership. However, the feasibility of implementing molecular identification of juveniles on an on-going basis (i.e. every year) depends on the cost of analysis for each of the juvenile fish. This cost in turn is dependent on the number of loci that need to be assayed for accurate family assignment. In this study, we will evaluate the polymorphism at 12 to 15 microsatellite loci in the Heritage SBP strain and identify the most cost-effective suite of 6-10 loci that can be used for family assignment on an ongoing basis. In addition, we will develop and publish standardized protocols for the implementation of molecular pedigrees in the BC aquaculture industry that can be employed by any company.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2005 - 2007


Pacific: Vancouver Island West Coast

Principal Investigator(s)

Ruth Withler

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