Einar E Nielsen

Technical University of Denmark, København, Capital Region, Denmark

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Publications (66)267.68 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Shallow population structure is generally reported for most marine fish and explained as a consequence of high dispersal, connectivity and large population size. Targeted gene analyses and more recently genome-wide studies have challenged such view, suggesting that adaptive divergence might occur even when neutral markers provide genetic homogeneity across populations. Here, 381 SNPs located in transcribed regions were used to assess large- and fine-scale population structure in the European hake (Merluccius merluccius), a widely distributed demersal species of high priority for the European fishery. Analysis of 850 individuals from 19 locations across the entire distribution range showed evidence for several outlier loci, with significantly higher resolving power. While 299 putatively neutral SNPs confirmed the genetic break between basins (FCT = 0.016) and weak differentiation within basins, outlier loci revealed a dramatic divergence between Atlantic and Mediterranean populations (FCT range 0.275–0.705) and fine-scale significant population structure. Outlier loci separated North Sea and Northern Portugal populations from all other Atlantic samples and revealed a strong differentiation among Western, Central and Eastern Mediterranean geographical samples. Significant correlation of allele frequencies at outlier loci with seawater surface temperature and salinity supported the hypothesis that populations might be adapted to local conditions. Such evidence highlights the importance of integrating information from neutral and adaptive evolutionary patterns towards a better assessment of genetic diversity. Accordingly, the generated outlier SNP data could be used for tackling illegal practices in hake fishing and commercialization as well as to develop explicit spatial models for defining management units and stock boundaries.
    Molecular Ecology 01/2014; 23(1). · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent technological developments have facilitated an increased focus on identifying genomic regions underlying adaptive trait variation in natural populations, and it has been advocated that this information should be important for designating population units for conservation. In marine fishes, phenotypic studies have suggested adaptation through divergence of life-history traits among natural populations, but the distribution of adaptive genetic variation in these species is still relatively poorly known. In this study, we extract information about the geographical distribution of genetic variation for 33 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with life-history trait candidate genes, and compare this to variation in 70 putatively neutral SNPs in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). We analyse samples covering the major population complexes in the eastern Atlantic and find strong evidence for non-neutral levels and patterns of population structuring for several of the candidate gene-associated markers, including two SNPs in the growth hormone 1 gene. Thus, this study aligns with findings from phenotypic studies, providing molecular data strongly suggesting that these or closely linked genes are under selection in natural populations of Atlantic cod. Furthermore, we find that patterns of variation in outlier markers do not align with those observed at selectively neutral markers, and that outlier markers identify conservation units on finer geographical scales than those revealed when analysing only neutral markers. Accordingly, results also suggest that information about adaptive genetic variation will be useful for targeted conservation and management in this and other marine species.
    Conservation Genetics 01/2014; 15(1). · 2.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Collections of historical tissue samples from fish (e.g. scales and otoliths) stored in museums and fisheries institutions are precious sources of DNA for conducting retrospective genetic analysis. However, in some cases only external tags used for documentation of spatial dynamics of fish populations have been preserved. Here we test the usefulness of fish tags as a source of DNA for genetic analysis. We extract DNA from historical tags from cod collected in Greenlandic waters between 1950 and 1968. We show that the quantity and quality of DNA recovered from tags is comparable to DNA from archived otoliths from the same individuals. Surprisingly, levels of cross-contamination do not seem to be significantly higher in DNA from external (tag) than internal (otolith) sources. Our study therefore demonstrates that historical tags can be a highly valuable source of DNA for retrospective genetic analysis of fish. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Molecular Ecology Resources 12/2013; · 7.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An essential prerequisite of sustainable fisheries is the match between biologically relevant processes and management action. Various populations may however co-occur on fishing grounds, although they might not belong to the same stock, leading to poor performance of stock assessment and management. Plaice in Kattegat and Skagerrak have traditionally been considered as one stock unit. Current understanding indicates that several plaice components may exist in the transition area between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. A comprehensive review of all available biological knowledge on plaice in this area is performed, including published and unpublished literature together with the analyses of commercial and survey data and historical tagging data. The results suggest that plaice in Skagerrak is closely associated with plaice in the North Sea, although local populations are present in the area. Plaice in Kattegat, the Belts Sea and the Sound can be considered a stock unit, as is plaice in the Baltic Sea. The analyses revealed great heterogeneity in the dynamics and productivity of the various local components, and suggested for specific action to maintain biodiversity.
    Journal of Sea Research 11/2013; · 1.83 Impact Factor
  • ICES Conference & NorMER Annual Meeting, Reykjavik; 09/2013
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    ABSTRACT: Accurate prediction of species distribution shifts in the face of climate change requires a sound understanding of population diversity and local adaptations. Previous modeling has suggested that global warming will lead to increased abundance of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the ocean around Greenland, but the dynamics of earlier abundance fluctuations are not well understood. We applied a retrospective spatiotemporal population genomics approach to examine the temporal stability of cod population structure in this region and to search for signatures of divergent selection over a 78-year period spanning major demographic changes. Analyzing >900 gene-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms in 847 individuals, we identified four genetically distinct groups that exhibited varying spatial distributions with considerable overlap and mixture. The genetic composition had remained stable over decades at some spawning grounds, whereas complete population replacement was evident at others. Observations of elevated differentiation in certain genomic regions are consistent with adaptive divergence between the groups, indicating that they may respond differently to environmental variation. Significantly increased temporal changes at a subset of loci also suggest that adaptation may be ongoing. These findings illustrate the power of spatiotemporal population genomics for revealing biocomplexity in both space and time and for informing future fisheries management and conservation efforts.
    Evolutionary Applications 06/2013; 6(4):690-705. · 4.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The genomic architecture underlying ecological divergence and ecological speciation with gene flow is still largely unknown for most organisms. One central question is whether divergence is genome-wide or localized in ‘genomic mosaics’ during early stages when gene flow is still pronounced. Empirical work has so far been limited, and the relative impacts of gene flow and natural selection on genomic patterns have not been fully explored. Here, we use ecotypes of Atlantic cod to investigate genomic patterns of diversity and population differentiation in a natural system characterized by high gene flow and large effective population sizes, properties which theoretically could restrict divergence in local genomic regions. We identify a genomic region of strong population differentiation, extending over approximately 20 cM, between pairs of migratory and stationary ecotypes examined at two different localities. Furthermore, the region is characterized by markedly reduced levels of genetic diversity in migratory ecotype samples. The results highlight the genomic region, or ‘genomic island’, as potentially associated with ecological divergence and suggest the involvement of a selective sweep. Finally, we also confirm earlier findings of localized genomic differentiation in three other linkage groups associated with divergence among eastern Atlantic populations. Thus, although the underlying mechanisms are still unknown, the results suggest that ‘genomic mosaics’ of differentiation may even be found under high levels of gene flow and that marine fishes may provide insightful model systems for studying and identifying initial targets of selection during ecological divergence.
    Molecular Ecology 04/2013; 22(10):2653-2667. · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Landscape genetics, which considers genetic population structure in the context of spatially referenced parameters in the surrounding landscape, has been shown to be extremely useful for wildlife management. Unfortunately its widespread uptake beyond the research community is hampered due to a lack of effective communication of usable information in a suitable format for application by stakeholders such as wildlife regulators or managers. To improve the communication of suitable information, geovisualization of results should be facilitated in a comprehensible format for stakeholders without GIS or genetic expertise. While specialist applications exist, alternative accessible solutions do not provide adequate support for the visualization of multi-attribute spatially referenced genetic population structure information. As a solution, we document our exploration for an appropriate symbology to communicate landscape genetic information through an accessible, web-based interface. A full problem description, review of available technologies, development rationale, and discussion of the symbology exploration are provided.
    Transactions in GIS 04/2013; 17(2). · 0.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about how quickly natural populations adapt to changes in their environment and how temporal and spatial variation in selection pressures interact to shape patterns of genetic diversity. We here address these issues with a series of genome scans in four overfished populations of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) studied over an 80-year period. Screening of >1000 gene-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified 77 loci that showed highly elevated levels of differentiation, likely as an effect of directional selection, in either time, space or both. Exploratory analysis suggested that temporal allele frequency shifts at certain loci may correlate with local temperature variation and with life history changes suggested to be fisheries induced. Interestingly, however, largely nonoverlapping sets of loci were temporal outliers in the different populations and outliers from the 1928 to 1960 period showed almost complete stability during later decades. The contrasting microevolutionary trajectories among populations resulted in sequential shifts in spatial outliers, with no locus maintaining elevated spatial differentiation throughout the study period. Simulations of migration coupled with observations of temporally stable spatial structure at neutral loci suggest that population replacement or gene flow alone could not explain all the observed allele frequency variation. Thus, the genetic changes are likely to at least partly be driven by highly dynamic temporally and spatially varying selection. These findings have important implications for our understanding of local adaptation and evolutionary potential in high gene flow organisms and underscore the need to carefully consider all dimensions of biocomplexity for evolutionarily sustainable management.
    Molecular Ecology 03/2013; · 6.28 Impact Factor
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  • NorMER Annual Meeting, Helsinki; 11/2012
  • European Marine Biology Symposium, Arendal; 09/2012
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    ABSTRACT: High gene flow is considered the norm for most marine organisms and is expected to limit their ability to adapt to local environments. Few studies have directly compared the patterns of differentiation at neutral and selected gene loci in marine organisms. We analysed a transcriptome-derived panel of 281 SNPs in Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus), a highly migratory small pelagic fish, for elucidating neutral and selected genetic variation among populations and to identify candidate genes for environmental adaptation. We analysed 607 individuals from 18 spawning locations in the northeast Atlantic, including two temperature clines (5-12 °C) and two salinity clines (5-35‰). By combining genome scan and landscape genetic analyses, four genetically distinct groups of herring were identified: Baltic Sea, Baltic-North Sea transition area, North Sea/British Isles and North Atlantic; notably, samples exhibited divergent clustering patterns for neutral and selected loci. We found statistically strong evidence for divergent selection at 16 outlier loci on a global scale, and significant correlations with temperature and salinity at nine loci. On regional scales, we identified two outlier loci with parallel patterns across temperature clines and five loci associated with temperature in the North Sea/North Atlantic. Likewise, we found seven replicated outliers, of which five were significantly associated with low salinity across both salinity clines. Our results reveal a complex pattern of varying spatial genetic variation among outlier loci, likely reflecting adaptations to local environments. In addition to disclosing the fine scale of local adaptation in a highly vagile species, our data emphasize the need to preserve functionally important biodiversity.
    Molecular Ecology 06/2012; 21(15):3686-703. · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing has had a major role in the overexploitation of global fish populations. In response, international regulations have been imposed and many fisheries have been 'eco-certified' by consumer organizations, but methods for independent control of catch certificates and eco-labels are urgently needed. Here we show that, by using gene-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms, individual marine fish can be assigned back to population of origin with unprecedented high levels of precision. By applying high differentiation single nucleotide polymorphism assays, in four commercial marine fish, on a pan-European scale, we find 93-100% of individuals could be correctly assigned to origin in policy-driven case studies. We show how case-targeted single nucleotide polymorphism assays can be created and forensically validated, using a centrally maintained and publicly available database. Our results demonstrate how application of gene-associated markers will likely revolutionize origin assignment and become highly valuable tools for fighting illegal fishing and mislabelling worldwide.
    Nature Communications 05/2012; 3:851. · 10.02 Impact Factor
  • Einar E Nielsen, Dorte Bekkevold
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    ABSTRACT: Few species worldwide have attracted as much attention in relation to conservation and sustainable management as Pacific salmon. Most populations have suffered significant reductions, many have disappeared, and even entire evolutionary significant units (ESUs) are believed to have been lost. Until now, no 'smoking gun' in terms of direct genetic evidence of the loss of a salmon ESU has been produced. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Iwamoto et al. (2012) use microsatellite analysis of historical scale samples of Columbia River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) from 1924 (Fig. 1) to ask the pertinent question: Do the historical samples contain salmon from extirpated populations or ESUs? They identified four genetic groups in the historical samples of which two were almost genetically identical to contemporary ESUs in the river, one showed genetic relationship with a third ESU, but one group was not related to any of the contemporary populations. In association with ecological data, the genetic results suggest that an early migrating Columbia River headwater sockeye salmon ESU has been extirpated. The study has significant importance for conservation and reestablishment of sockeye populations in the Columbia River, but also underpins the general significance of shifting baselines in conservation biology, and how to assess loss of genetic biodiversity. The results clearly illustrate the huge and versatile potential of using historical DNA in population and conservation genetics. Because of the extraordinarily plentiful historical samples and rapid advances in fish genomics, fishes are likely to spearhead future studies of temporal ecological and population genomics in non-model organisms. [Figure: see text].
    Molecular Ecology 04/2012; 21(7):1539-41. · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Widespread environmental changes including climate change, selective harvesting and landscape alterations now greatly affect selection regimes for most organisms. How animals and plants can adapt to these altered environments via contemporary evolution is thus of strong interest. We discuss how to use genetic monitoring to study adaptive responses via repeated analysis of the same populations over time, distinguishing between phenotypic and molecular genetics approaches. After describing monitoring designs, we develop explicit criteria for demonstrating adaptive responses, which include testing for selection and establishing clear links between genetic and environmental change. We then review a few exemplary studies that explore adaptive responses to climate change in Drosophila, selective responses to hunting and fishing, and contemporary evolution in Daphnia using resurrected resting eggs. We further review a broader set of 44 studies to assess how well they meet the proposed criteria, and conclude that only 23% fulfill all criteria. Approximately half (43%) of these studies failed to rule out the alternative hypothesis of replacement by a different, better-adapted population. Likewise, 34% of the studies based on phenotypic variation did not test for selection as opposed to drift. These shortcomings can be addressed via improved experimental designs and statistical testing. We foresee monitoring of adaptive responses as a future valuable tool in conservation biology, for identifying populations unable to evolve at sufficiently high rates and for identifying possible donor populations for genetic rescue. Technological advances will further augment the realization of this potential, especially next-generation sequencing technologies that allow for monitoring at the level of whole genomes.
    Molecular Ecology 03/2012; 21(6):1311-29. · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Populations of marine fish, even from contrasting habitats, generally show low genetic differentiation at neutral genetic markers. Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence for differences in gene expression among populations that may be ascribed to adaptive divergence. Studying variation in salinity tolerance and gene expression among Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) from two populations distributed across a steep salinity gradient, we observed high mortality (45% North Sea cod and 80% Baltic Sea cod) in a reciprocal common garden setup. Quantitative RT-PCR assays for expression of hsp70 and Na/K-ATPase α genes demonstrated significant differences in gene regulation within and between populations and treatment groups despite low sample sizes. Most interesting are the significant differences observed in expression of the Na/K-ATPase α gene in gill tissue between North Sea and Baltic cod. The findings strongly suggest that Atlantic cod are adapted to local saline conditions, despite relatively low levels of neutral genetic divergence between populations.
    Biochemical Genetics 12/2011; 50(5-6):454-66. · 0.94 Impact Factor
  • Sara Bonanomi, Jakob Hemmer Hansen, Einar Eg Nielsen
    NorMER Annual Meeting, Oslo; 11/2011
  • Sara Bonanomi, Jakob Hemmer Hansen, Einar Eg Nielsen
    10/2011;

Publication Stats

2k Citations
267.68 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2007–2014
    • Technical University of Denmark
      København, Capital Region, Denmark
  • 2013
    • Greenland Institute of Natural Resources
      Nuuk, Sermersooq, Greenland
  • 1997–2012
    • Aarhus University
      • • Department of Bioscience
      • • Department of Ecology and Genetics
      Aars, Region North Jutland, Denmark
  • 2011
    • Bangor University
      • School of Biological Sciences
      Bangor, WLS, United Kingdom
  • 1999–2008
    • Danish Institute for Health Services Research
      København, Capital Region, Denmark