Research Output

First genetic evidence that invasive bullhead (Cottus L. 1758) in Scotland is of English origin and the difficulty of resolving the European Cottus species taxonomy

  The European bullhead (Cottus gobio) is widely distributed across Europe and within the UK is native to England and Wales, where it is protected under the Habitats Directive. In Scotland, however, the species is considered invasive and thriving populations are recorded in the Forth and Clyde river catchments, and the Ale Water in the Scottish Borders. The genetic identity of the Scottish populations has not been established. There is also debate about the status of the European bullhead and its validity as single species, a species complex with several unresolved species, or distinct different species in its European distribution range. There is therefore a need to determine the taxonomy and likely source of the novel Scottish populations. Genetic analyses using cytochrome oxidase 1 (COI) mtDNA sequences were undertaken on specimens from the Forth and Clyde catchments, and combined with the results of morphological characteristics to provide a comprehensive assessment of the taxonomic classification for Scottish bullheads. There was considerable variation in morphological characteristics between populations within Scotland and a wider range of variability than previously recorded for English populations. Genetically the Scottish populations were very closely related to English specimens, supporting the hypothesis of introduction directly from England to Scotland. In terms of broader relationships, Scottish specimens are genetically more closely related to the ostensible species Chabot fluviatile Cottus perifretum, which has been suggested as one of a complex of species across Europe. Morphologically they exhibit characteristics on the spectrum between C. perifretum and C. gobio. There is an urgent need for the clarification of the taxonomy of Cottus sp.(p). to avoid confusion in future publications, legislation and management practices relating to bullheads throughout the UK and Europe.

  • Type:

    Article

  • Date:

    24 January 2020

  • Publication Status:

    Published

  • DOI:

    10.1111/jfb.14247

  • ISSN:

    0022-1112

  • Library of Congress:

    QH540 Ecology

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    577.6 Freshwater ecology

  • Funders:

    Marine Alliance for Science & Technology for Scotland (Hosted by St Andrew's University)

Citation

McLeish, J., Briers, R., Dodd, J., & Rueckert, S. (2020). First genetic evidence that invasive bullhead (Cottus L. 1758) in Scotland is of English origin and the difficulty of resolving the European Cottus species taxonomy. Journal of Fish Biology, 96(3), 617-630. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.14247

Authors

Keywords

Bullhead; Cottus gobio; Cottus perifretum; cytochrome oxidase 1; introduced; morphology; phylogenetics

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