Comox Valley Naturalists Society
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Dr. Ben Koop
Dr. Ben Koop gave a presentation entitled “The Origin of British Columbia Coho Salmon and the Salmon Genome Project”. Dr. Koop is a professor in the Department of Biology, and the Division of Medical Sciences, University of Victoria. He is also Director, Centre for Biomedical Research and a staff scientist with the B.C. Cancer Agency.
Large portions of northwestern North America were repeatedly buried in ice during the 19 or 20 glaciations that characterized the Pleistocene Epoch. The most recent glaciation began approximately 70-60 thousand years ago. During the height of this glaciation, ice-free areas persisted both south and north of the ice. There is also evidence of ice-free areas along the glaciated coast.
Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) are anadromous, homing to streams around the north Pacific Basin from Kamchatka in Asia to California in North America. Based on the ability of coho to disperse via marine routes, and on their present distribution, coho probably persisted in both northern and southern refugia. Present evidence reveals that a large portion of coho's genetic resources are concentrated in the southern quarter of its range and suggests a southern origin of coho species. This finding emphasizes the importance of coho runs in Washington State, Oregon and California to the evolutionary potential of the species, and provides additional rationale for the protection of stocks in this region. The data also concur with previous work that genetic variation within British Columbia exists in at least three blocks (coastal islands, coastal mainland and Thompson). Thus it seems logical to use these regions as the minimum units for conserving genetic resources.
Salmonid fishes are economically and culturally important, scientifically interesting and relevant for society. They are among the most actively cultured finfish and the wild fish form the basis for important commercial, sport and Indian fisheries. From a scientific perspective, salmon are of great interest because a whole genome duplication in their recent past has doubled all of their genes. Genome duplication and the resulting specialization of duplicate genes is thought to be one of the defining events in the evolution of complex vertebrates and the human species. Salmonids are an excellent model system to investigate the consequences of a whole genome duplication that has played such an important role in human and vertebrate evolution.
The Salmon Genome Project brings together international
experts to investigate salmonid genomics. Dr. Koop is one of the three
project leaders. The project
will produce results that can be applied to the fields of aquaculture,
health, conservation and environmental assessment. Among the specific
objectives are gene identification and mapping, gene expression studies
ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social issues.
Previous Guest Speakers
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