Freshwaters are a very valuable resource in arid areas, such as Mediterranean countries. Freshwater systems are vulnerable ecological habitats, significantly disturbed globally and especially in arid areas. The Sea of Galilee is the largest surface freshwater body in the Middle East. It is an isolated habitat supporting unique fish populations, including endemic species and populations on the edge of their distribution range. Using the Sea of Galilee for water supply, fishing and recreation has been placing pressure on these fish populations. Therefore, efficient monitoring and effective actions can make a difference in the conservation of these unique fish populations. To set a baseline and develop molecular tools to do so, in this study, DNA barcoding was used to establish a database of molecular species identification based on sequences of Cytochrome C Oxidase subunit I gene. DNA barcodes for 22 species were obtained and deposited in Barcode of Life Database. Among these, 12 barcodes for 10 species were new to the database and different from those already there. Barcode sequences were queried against the database and similar barcodes from the same and closely related species were obtained. Disagreements between morphological and molecular species identification were identified for five species, which were further studied by phylogenetic and genetic distances analyses. These analyses suggested the Sea of Galilee contained hybrid fish of some species and other species for which the species definition should be reconsidered. Notably, the cyprinid fish defined as Garra rufa, should be considered as Garra jordanica. Taken together, along with data supporting reconsideration of species definition, this study sets the basis for further using molecular tools for monitoring fish populations, understanding their ecology, and effectively managing their conservation in this unique and important habitat and in the region.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The study was funded by the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under Grant #186-0001-11 to LD and GH. https://www.moag.gov.il/en/Ministrys%20Units/Chief%20Scientist/Pages/default.aspx. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Copyright: © 2022 Tadmor-Levi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.