Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers for specific identification of istiophorid and xiphiid billfishes


McDowell, Jan R., and John E. Graves
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Independent molecular markers based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA were developed to provide positive identification of istiophorid and xiphiid billfishes (marlins, spearfishes, sailfish, and swordfish). Both classes of markers were based on amplification of short segments (<1.7 kb) of DNA by the polymerase chain reaction and subsequent digestion with informative restriction endonucleases. Candidate markers were evaluated for their ability to discriminate among the different species and the level of intraspecific variation they exhibited. The selected markers require no more than two restriction digestions to allow unambiguous identification, although it was not possible to distinguish between white marlin and striped marlin with any of the genetic characters screened in our study. Individuals collected from throughout each species’ range were surveyed with the selected markers demonstrating low levels of intraspecific character variation within species. The resulting keys provide two independent means for the forensic identification of fillets and for specific identification of early life history stages.