Monday, November 30, 2009

Visiting Johannes

Saša, who is staying in Slovenia at the moment, Aleš and his wife Nada visited Johannes Schöffmann and his wife Ida in St. Veit, Austria. We admired Johannes’s rich collection of stuffed salmonids exposed across the living-room wall and enjoyed a lunch prepared by Ida. In the evening, we tasted delicious cakes from Franz Schöffmann Bäckerei und Konditorei, made by Johannes himself.

Inspired by beer and wine, we were discussing Moroccan trout and planning future projects and field trips…Algeria seems to be the next tempting destination.

Unfortunately, most of the taken pictures were accidently deleted from the camera.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Last week, Dušan, Zoran and Aleš spent four pleasant days in Hungary visiting Dr. Ákos Horváth and his team working at the Department of Aquaculture, Szent István University in Gödöllő. The visit was made in a frame of Slovene-Hungarian bilateral project "Cryopreservation of sperm and establishment of a cryobank of the Adriatic grayling (Thymallus thymallus) from the Soča river".

Besides doing some cryo-lab work, we also took this opportunity to sample three locations in Bükki Nemzeti Park, supposedly inhabited by native brown trout populations (genetic testing underway). We also visited Lillafüred trout breeding farm close to Miskolc run by Mr. György Hoitsy. Here we ate an excellent cat-fish goulash with baked pasta and white cheese cooked by his wife.

On the last day of our visit, the Hungarian colleagues along with Dr. Zoran Spirkovski from Hydro Biological Institute (Ohrid, Macedonia) presented their initiative for organizing the 2nd Conference for Conservation & Management of Balkan Freshwater Fishes (COMBAFF), which should be held in September 2010 in Hungary. Aleš was invited to participate in scientific committee... OK, he couldn't say no.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Annual testing of marble trout from zone of hybridization

Just like last year and a year before that, we performed genetic testing of fish from the zone of hybridization. This year we have received fin clips from 43 individually tagged trout from lower Trebuščica (the upper is home to one of 8 genetically pure populations of marble trout). These samples were checked for non native genetic characteristic on 5 nuclear genetic markers (each genetic marker in 2 copies, one allele inherited from each parent) and on 1 mitochondrial genetic marker (in 1 copy, inherited from the mother only). Out of 43 samples, 13 show signs of hybridization with non native trout, 4 sample will not be used because of low quality of DNA isolate (not included in the table). Eggs and sperm will be taken from 26 trout with no detectable brown trout genetic characteristics, fertilised and raised in the hatchery, released back in the zone of hybridization. DNA isolation and genotyping was carried out by Gašper.

Below is a simplified table of genotypes. These genotypes are not publishable, since the initial sampling was biased, only marble trout (by general appearance) were sampled, so the actual percentage of non native alleles in sampled locations might differ from our results (8.2% for nuclear markers, 2.6% for mtDNA marker).

Table of genotypes across 1 mitochondrial and 5 nuclear markers. Samples with non native (=brown trout alleles) are marked red and will not be used in restoration program. M - marble trout specific allele, B - brown trout specific allele.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

LIFFe 2009

LIFFe stands for Ljubljana International Film Festival. To be honest, most people still refer to the festival as LIFF (especially those who are aware of the meaning of liff). As mentioned last year, BTRG selects a movie with a fish related title. There were 5 movies to choose from this year, last year's winner was Encounters at the End of the World, this year it was Fish Tank. There is hardly a place for fish in an English social drama, but several things were unexpectedly connected to our work. For instance, there actually was a fishing scene and a memorable "fish are stupid" quote. The main actor was Michael Fassbender, who also played in Inglourious Basterds, last movie we saw as a part of team building. And of course, the main music theme was Bobby Womack's version of California dreamin', a very appropriate song just 2 months before Urška and Aleš will represent BTRG at the Plant and genome conference on a winter's day in the same state.
Anyway, Tamara, Urška and Andrej attended this year's LIFFe event, along with Daliborka and her team as special guest stars. Anja and Aleš were absent at the last minute notice due to emergency sampling expedition. In the boss's absence there was enough time for conversation and some gossiping after the movie (until the waitress kicked us out).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Second trip to Morocco (August 2009)

First trip to Morocco was last year (here & here). During the second field trip two more sampling sites were added, a few more locations checked were troutless. Participants were Aleš, Saša, Johnnes & daughter. For more pictures click here.

Morocco 2009

ADDED: Just received a note from Aleš. This trip was actually the third expedition to Morocco. The first was already in June 2006, predating this blog. The participants at that time were Johannes with his daughter, Aleš with his wife and Said of the University Cadi Ayyad.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Softmouth trout from Vrljika

Several field trips and a lot of work was done near Imotski in Croatia. Softmouth trout was perhaps the most interesting fish from that area. Aleš has published a paper in Športski ribolov (Sport Fishing), presenting genetic results to the wider public. Special thanks to Daliborka Dušanić for translation to Croatian.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another myth busted?

In the past year, BTRG has performed a comprehensive genetic analysis of dentex trout from the River Neretva. This time we applied an extended set of molecular markers and included for comparison several specimens of "real glavatica" (i.e., marmorated trout from the Neretva), which were badly missing in our preliminary study.

Contrary to our previous hypothesis, dentex trout turned out as genetically indistinct from marmorated trout of the Neretva. We assume that a phenotype characteristic of dentex trout had probably evolved as a consequence of specific local adaptation.

For more information, see the summary of already submitted manuscript below.

The dentex samples were provided by prof. Branko Glamuzina (University of Dubrovnik) and prof. Ivan Bogut (University of Osijek), and the "glavatica" samples by Naris Pojskić (Institute for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology).

Salmo dentex from Hutovo Blato

Salmo marmoratus

Salmo dentex


The Balkan Peninsula is home to the most diverse collection of salmonids in the world. Nevertheless, many taxonomic uncertainties remain unresolved despite over a century of studies. Conservation of Balkan salmonid biodiversity hinges in large part upon addressing such uncertainties and is therefore of paramount importance. A notable example is found in the enigmatic Salmo dentex, which has been described by various authors in discontinuous populations ranging from the Aoos river in Greece to the Krka river drainage in Croatia. Current reports suggest it has disappeared from much of its previous range. At present, several contradictory opinions predominate on the taxonomic status of S. dentex without any broad consensus. To help resolve this issue we performed a rigorous molecular genetic analysis using a robust array of mtDNA, microsatellite, and nuclear gene markers of so-called S. dentex of the lower Neretva river drainage alongside other co-inhabiting endemic salmonids (i.e. S. obtusirostris, S. marmoratus, S. trutta). Our results clearly showed three genetically distinct lineages of salmonids with S. dentex being phenotypically distinct yet genetically indistinct from S. marmoratus of the lower Neretva. Based on our results and previous molecular results on Montenegrin dentex, it is clear that S. dentex is not a monophyletic lineage and should not be considered a distinct species on a genetic basis. We hypothesize S. dentex to most likely be polyphyletic assemblage of fish sharing a similar life history and unified phenotype evolved as a consequence of specific local adaptation.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Introducing Klavdija

Klavdija Bogataj is an undergraduate student of animal science and is currently preparing her graduation thesis "Genetic analysis of autochthonous brown trout (Salmo trutta) in Slovenija and identification of genetically pure populations" (working title).

Her practical working experience as a part of animal science curriculum at the Angling Club of Tržič was followed by sampling expedition with the Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia. After realising that sampled fish are studied by Aleš Snoj she asked him for a graduation thesis mentorship. At the end, Simona Sušnik became her mentor. Klavdija started to work in the laboratory in October 2008 both for her thesis and the autochthonous brown trout project. As the later is done under a scheme similar to summer work she will probably be one of the few people actually working in the lab during the summer.

just fishing

Monday, April 20, 2009


Meteorological spring started on 1st of March, astronomical on 20th of March. At the Dept. of Animal Science, 2 events mark the begining of spring.

colorssustainable use of landscape

Monday, April 6, 2009

Introducing John

John Zablocki is a recent graduate in Chemistry and Spanish from the University of Montana. He came to Slovenia this September on a Fulbright grant for his project titled "Characterization and conservation of endangered Balkan trout". His first several months in Slovenia were spent working in the Marble Trout Restoration Program in Western Slovenia with the Tolmin Angling Association (Ribiška družina Tolmin). In January he moved from Tolmin to join our lab and is currently working on a project to possibly identify a remaining pure population of Marble trout that were thought to have gone extinct.

He is obsessed with trout, language, fly fishing, and conservation. He plans to continue working in the Balkans to help protect its unique and fragile salmonid biodiversity.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vrljika field trip, March 09

In a frame of collaboration with prof. dr. Ivan Bogut from Osijek University, Mr. Ante Mikulić, a representative of Angling club Proložac and our old friend Dušan Jesenšek from RD Tolmin, BTRG organized another field trip to Imotsko polje, in the first place to sample minnows. We were again accompanied with a photographer Arne Hodalič and also with his friend Matej Mihailovski; they were mostly interested in taking photos of the Vrljika softmouth trout and Red Lake scenery.

It was also our intention to meet Manu Esteve and John Zablocki there, who were in the mean time trying hard to film spawning behaviour of the softmouth trout in the neighbouring Neretva River. Unfortunately, we somehow didn’t make it and we are now trying to organize this meeting in Slovenia, were Manu is currently making a stay waiting for Hucho spawning.

in the name of sciencesalmo obtusirostrissalmo obtusirostris

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The number of visitors on this blog and on the main Balkan Trout site is approaching 10 000. Counting started about a year after the site was launched. While monitoring visitor's IPs has a lot of limitations it is relatively easy to see visitors from Universities. So here is the list so far. Thank you (cite us).

Country and University in alphabetical order:

Aarhus, Antonio de Nebrija, Belgrade, Bern, Bilkent, Cagliari, Charles , Chicago, Cornell, Delaware, delle Marche, Dijon, Edinburgh, Georgetown, Graz, Innsbruck, Kaiserslautern, King Abdulaziz, Lausanne, Laval, Liege, Maribor, Masaryk , Milano, Montana, Montenegro, MontpellierII, Münster, New Mexico, Nijmegen, Niš, Oklahoma State, Oslo, Oxford, Padova, Salford, San Francisco, Sarajevo, Siena, St. Thomas, Stanford, Stirling, Szent Istvan, Teheran, Torino, Toronto, Turku, Udine, Valparaiso, Victoria, Vienna, Washington, Western Australia, Wisconsin-superior, Yale, Zagreb.

Flag icons taken from famfamfam, public domain.