• flyingfish stock structure;
  • nuclear DNA;
  • RAPD markers

The polymerase chain reaction–random amplified polymorphic DNA (PCR–RAPD) technique was used to examine genetic variability and population structuring in the four-wing flyingfish, Hirundichthys affinis within the central western Atlantic. Three random decamer primers and pairs of these primers were used to amplify nuclear DNA from 360 fish sampled from six populations (at five locations) across the region. A total of 58 polymorphic RAPD markers were identified, 20 of which were population-specific and six of which were subregional or stock-specific markers. Cluster analysis of similarity indices indicated the presence of three genetically distinct subregional stocks located in the eastern Caribbean, southern Netherlands Antilles and Brazil, respectively. Estimates of gene diversity (φ) and gene flow (Nm) are consistent with this three-stock hypothesis. Furthermore, partially restricted gene flow was apparent among spatially and temporally separate sampled populations within the eastern Caribbean subregional stock, indicating the possible presence of different spawning groups. These results are entirely consistent with those obtained from PCR–RFLP analysis of the mtDNA D-loop in the same fish, indicating the presence of barriers to dispersal and interbreeding in both sexes. We conclude that the PCR–RAPD technique is suitable for determining population stock structure in this species and that a three-stock approach to managing H. affinis within the central western Atlantic would be appropriate.