This study aimed at assessing the genetic structure and the state of the stocks of the European hake (Merluccius merluccius). To this end, 15 samples were taken from the whole range of the species and analysed using allozymes. Since 11 samples were taken from the poorly studied Mediterranean Sea, the results obtained provided a complete picture of the hake's genetic structure and an initial insight into its relationships with environmental features. Atlantic and Mediterranean hake populations are separated by the Almeria-Oran front. This area has been proved to be the boundary between Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of many marine organisms, but some doubt exists concerning the efficaciousness of the local gyres as barriers to the gene flow. Our data have evidenced a latitudinal cline at loci Gapdh and Gpi-2 within the Mediterranean Sea, with a further steep change across the Almeria-Oran front. The genetic pattern showed a strong correlation with the values of the salinity both at the surface and at −320 m and of the salinity + temperature at the surface, suggesting a role for these parameters in maintaining the genetic differentiation among the two population groups through selective processes. Finally, the levels of genetic variability were found to be slightly lower in the depleted Atlantic stock than in the Mediterranean one.
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