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Mapping the lake trout genome to ensure the species' future

Lake trout is an iconic native species to the Great Lakes. EEB doctoral student Seth Smith is leading an effort along with his professor Kim Scribner and an international team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada spearheaded by Louis Bernatchez at Université Laval to create a reference genome for lake trout to support state and federal agencies with reintroduction and conservation efforts.

Lake Trout found in the Great Lakes
Lake trout found in the Great Lakes. Courtesy of Andrew Muir

“Since the glaciers melted and formed the Great Lakes, lake trout was the top predator,” said Scribner, an EEB core faculty member and professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Wildlife within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Lake trout adapted morphologically (how fish size and shape have changed) and physiologically (how fish behavior and response to stress have changed) to these diverse and newly formed lake environments.”

Overfishing and predation by invasive sea lamprey reduced Great Lakes populations to near extinction between the late 1940s and 1960s. Only populations in Lake Superior and Lake Huron survived.

State and federal agencies worked together with local fish hatcheries to capture the diversity represented in these remaining populations in order to develop hatchery strains that could once again thrive in the Great Lakes.

The research from the team was published on Aug. 5 in the journal Molecular Ecology Resources.

 “These sorts of analyses and the genome annotation tell us where we needed to focus,” said Smith, the lead author, a student in the Department of Integrative Biology within the College of Natural Science. “Now we have the tools to figure out what is important biologically.”

Read the full story in MSU Today