Black or white? Underlying causes of phenotypic plasticity in polar cod

Black or white? Underlying causes of phenotypic plasticity in polar cod

Research leader: Caroline Bouchard, Senior Scientist, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

Other participants and affiliated institutions: Denis Roy, Professor, McGill University; Henrik Christiansen, Researcher, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources; Patrick Farnole ,Ph.D. candidate, Uummannaq Polar Institute.

Research area, purpose and research questions:
Eqalugaq (polar cod, Boreogadus saida) has a central role in Arctic marine ecosystems. Any changes in polar cod population dynamics can have cascading effects on its predators and the services they provide to Greenlanders including recreational fishing and hunting, commercial fisheries, ecotourism, and cultural value. Polar cod, a coldadapted species with a narrow thermal tolerance during early life, is highly sensitive to ocean warming, and the species abundance has declined in some regions. Phenotypic and genetic variability, along with population structure are important aspects to consider in the response of polar cod to climate change and should be considered in management of human activities that are expected to increasingly impact this species. Uummannaq fishers catch polar cod as bait and have reported the existence of two morphotypes: a white one and a black one. In this project, we want to study the underlying causes of these two phenotypes. We will continue our collaboration with Uummannaq fishers to collect polar cod samples and perform laboratory analyses to assess if the morphotypes are associated with habitat, sex, age, physiological condition, reproductive activity, or genotype.
Methods for inclusion of society:
The project is based on our ongoing collaboration with Uummannaq fishers, Uummannaq Polar Institute, Uummannaq fish factories, KNAPK and other local partners. We will continue to communicate the project’s relevant findings, pictures, and stories through local media (radio, newspapers), GINR’s website, and social media.

Methods for dissemination to the public:
We are planning, in collaboration with the Children’s Home in Uummannaq and the Uummannaq Polar Institute, a cartoon featuring the ongoing collaboration between fishers and scientists in Uummannaq. The cartoon production activity will be done during our visit in Uummannaq in 2023, and involves an artist, children, fishers, scientists, and interpreters.

Granted: 70.000 DKK.

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