Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Researcher Casting for Anglers Who Can Reel in Hybrid Fish DNA

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Researcher Casting for Anglers Who Can Reel in Hybrid Fish DNA

Article excerpt

Researcher hopes to reel in hybrid fish DNA

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REGINA - Anglers in Saskatchewan are being asked to help reel in information about a hybrid fish.

Chris Somers, an ecologist at the University of Regina, is hoping that anyone looking for good fishing holes before an upcoming walleye tournament will bring him a specimen that could be a cross between a walleye and a sauger. It's known as a saugeye.

"What we are trying to do is to get a DNA-based approach up and running to detect hybrids reliably between those two species," said Somers.

"The reason we need to do that is that after a certain number of generations of interbreeding, you can't reliably detect a hybrid by eye, so you need a molecular tool to be able to positively identify something as being intermediate between the two."

Walleye don't have spots on their fins, and the bottom of their tails is lighter with a white tip. Sauger have spots all over the fins, but no light patch on the tail. A hybrid could have some or any of the characteristics.

The first step of Somers's research is to develop a detection method with DNA-based tools ready in the lab. He needs a tissue sample, like from a fin clip, to do the analysis.

"We just take a small piece of the fin from the fish and then we would extract DNA from that fin and we would use ... molecular markers, sort of like creating a barcode for the fish," he said.

"When you go to the grocery store, they scan that barcode in the laser machine there that tells you what product it is. We're creating a similar barcode with pieces of DNA that will tell us whether the fish is a walleye or a sauger or has characteristics of both."

Walleye are more of a lake or deep-water fish, while sauger are usually in turbid or flowing waters, such as rivers.

When the two environments come together -- for example, at the spot where the South Saskatchewan River flows into Lake Diefenbaker -- they can interbreed to create the saugeye.

Somers says anglers have been speculating about how long saugeye have been around "ever since the first lure went in the water in Canada. …

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