Population genomics of the peripheral freshwater fish Polynemus melanochir (Perciformes, Polynemidae) in a changing Mekong Delta

B. T. Dang1 · Q. H. D. Vu1,2 · E. E. Biesack3 · T. V. Doan4 · O. T. Truong1 · T. L. Tran2 · A. S. Ackiss3 · B. L. Stockwell3 ·K. E. Carpenter3


The Mekong River is a vital fisheries resource supporting millions of people in mainland Southeast Asia. However, numerous threats have the potential to negatively impact fish populations in this region including overfishing, pollution, climate change and increased urban, agriculture and upstream hydropower development. Although a few studies have examined the population genetic structure of fishes within the upper Mekong River, no known studies have explored that of fishes within the Mekong Delta (MD). Here, we examine the population structure of an important food fish within the MD, Polynemus melanochir, using a panel of 1735 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) generated by restriction site-associated DNA (RAD) sequencing across eight locations on the Tien (Mekong) and Hau (Bassac) Rivers in Vietnam. Pairwise FST values, principal component analysis and Structure analysis all indicate high levels of gene flow among the sites sampled across the MD. In contrast to the lack of genetic structure, high levels of relatedness were found, including 26 putatively related pairs, as well as an effective population size (Ne) of less than 500 across the MD. While panmixia indicates that fragmentation of this population is not presently an important threat, a low Ne estimate suggests this species may not be resilient to long-term environmental changes in the MD. The reliance on P. melanochir as a food resource may be contingent on management and mitigation of low effective population sizes.

Keywords Vietnam · Population genetics · RADSeq · River fisheries