Genetic identification of Thunnus orientalis, T. thynnus, and T. maccoyii by a cytochrome b gene analysis
In order to infer phylogenetic relationships between tuna species of the genus Thunnus, partial sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b and ATPase genes were determined in all eight species. Supplemental restriction analysis on the nuclear rRNA gene was also carried out. Pacific northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus orientalis) was found to have mtDNA distinct from that of the Atlantic subspecies (T. t. thynnus) but very similar to that from the species albacore (T. alaluga). In contrast, no differentiation in nuclear genome was observed between the Atlantic and Pacific northern bluefin tunas. The Atlantic northern bluefin and southern bluefin tunas possessed mtDNA sequences very similar to species of yellowfin tuna group and not so similar to albacore and bigeye tunas which were morphologically assigned to the bluefin tuna group. The molecular data indicate that (1) mtDNA from albacore has been incorporated into the Pacific population of northern bluefin tuna and has extensively displaced the original mtDNA, and (2) albacore is the earliest offshoot, followed by bigeye tuna in this genus, which is inconsistent with the phylogenetic relationships between these tuna species inferred from morphology.