Friday, October 1, 2010

Nate's field trip

Nate was with Angling club of Tolmin for a week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One day, two papers

BTRG had a lucky day: two papers were published on the same day.

A short paper about brown trout was published in Croatian journal. Unlike most of our research on brown trout, this paper is not about wild population. We genotyped fish from Fishing Club Bled fish farm to estimate the level of introgression of non native (Atlantic) genetic markers into native (Danubian) brown trout. Introgression was higher in females, probably because survival rate of males in captivity is lower therefore new males are routinely transferred from the wild where introgression is lower.

The second paper is about huchen, an endangered salmonid that matures at 65-70 cm of length and is endemic to the Danube basin. Unlike the highly diverse brown trout, huchen has low genetic variability so even fish from distant locations are genetically very similar. Based on observed markers, samples from 6 countries can be placed into two clusters: Austria / Slovenia and Ukraine / Slovakia / Montenegro / Bosnia-Herzegovina.

There are several possible explanations for low diversity within the species: (1) a slow molecular clock - essentially slow evolution; (2) low historical effective population sizes - small number of "breeders" in the entire basin; (3) a speciation founder effect - all living huchens are descendants of a very small number of ancestral huchens; (4) more recent human-caused bottlenecks - caused by overfishing and habitat degradation.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Anja and Aleš attended the 20th International Conference on Subterranean Biology (ICSB), from 29 August to 3 September, held in Postojna, Slovenia. Postojna cave was named "cradle of speleobiology" after the discovery of the first subterranean life (cave beetle Leptodirus hochenwartii Schmidt, 1832). Anja's contribution was a description of subterranean migration of imotska gaovica Delminichthys adspersus based on genetic evidence.

The conference was very interesting and excellently organized, it was really exciting to be a part of the underground scientific community for a while.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Introducing Nate

Nate Cathcart is a student from the Colorado State University taking a semester off to learn methods of fish population genetics before graduating in May 2011. During his five month stay in BTRG lab he will investigate origins of rainbow trout populations in Slovenia using historical and genetic data. Besides studying fish and growing his mullet, he enjoys ice-fishing and fly-fishing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Morocco 2010

In June we organized another field trip to Morocco. Although without our Moroccan colleagues, we did it in a frame of common project initiated in 2006. The main idea was to sample fish in the area of Tangier which appeared to be, as suggested by our preliminary results, a crucial location for untangling colonization patterns of trout in North Africa. In order to assure success the old team was joined by Gašper (our Crocodile hunter). Massive excavation works taking place all over the potentially interesting sampling sites along with our unfamiliarity with the area were probably responsible for complete failure. Some pictures of more successful part of this trip are presented below, all pictures were taken by Johannes Schöffmann.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Integrating ecology and evolution in diversity research (Workshop)

In May Gašper attended workshop about ecology end evolution which was held in Konnevesi Research Station in Finland, organized by Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Research, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, and was funded by the EU Marie Curie Initial Training Network Speciation.

Particular focus was on the genetics of adaptation and on using phylogenetic methods for studying divergence and diversification. The lectures, computer-based problem solving and a workshop on complementary skills were held by Rodolfo Costa (University of Padova), David Doležel (Biology Centre ASCR), Lacey Knowles (University of Michigan), Albert Phillimore (Imperial College London), and Johanna Mappes (University of Jyväskylä).

The knowledge of phylogenetic methods will help Gašper to resolve the origin of marble trout.

Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.

-Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations, 1776)

PAG Conference XVIII in San Diego

In January, 2010, Urška and Aleš attended Plant and Animal Genome Conference XVIII in San Diego, California, where they presented a poster entitled “SEARCHING FOR CANDIDATE GENES RESPONSIBLE FOR SKIN COLOURATION IN Salmo sp. USING MICROARRAYS”.

Aleš has been haunted ever since by next generation sequencing and thinking about what is better: first ask questions and then do the sequencing or vice versa?

After the conference, they stayed a couple of days in San Diego enjoying ocean scene, Hillcrest and the Zoo. Urška was afraid of Mexican gang fights (and food) so they just skipped Baja California and resumed the journey to Death Valley and Las Vegas. What an alternative. Picture gallery available here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dentex paper

Dentex paper was published. Finnaly. The results were mentioned before, samples from Montenegro were included in the final version.

Neretva and Skadar basins are inhabited by a complex mixture of salmonids of different appearances and sometimes of similar appearances and different genetic characteristics, which is why we are working on them in the first place. Results are often difficult to publish because of "small sample size" or because the studied taxa are "only of local significance". Dentex paper was one of the most difficult papers so far, because Aleš wanted to put it into a journal where we have no previous publications and because we did submit it to journals where our chances were statistically insignificant. Here is the list of attempted paper submittions:

  • Freshwater Biology
    6 Apr 2009
    I regret that the advice I have received is that your paper is of insufficient general interest for Freshwater Biology and that it should be submitted to a more specialised fish journal.
  • Nature
    30 Apr 2009
    ...after consideration, we are not persuaded that your findings represent a sufficiently outstanding scientific advance to justify publication in Nature.
  • Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
    11 Jun 2009
    The Journal has a large backlog of high quality papers awaiting publication and because of this I am forced to adopt a stringent editorial policy. As a result I can accept only papers that are strongly recommended by all referees.
  • Canadian Journal of Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences
    24 Dec 2009
    ...given that it is somewhat specialised in its subject matter, we recommend that it would be better suited to a more specialised journal such as Molecular Ecology or Copeia.
  • Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society
    5 Jan 2010
    The ZJLS is dedicated to systematic, phylogenetic and evolutionary zoology, but the main emphasis of this paper is a population genetic study of a single taxon.
  • Hydrobiologia
    4 May 2010
    We are pleased to inform you that your manuscript, "Resolving taxonomic uncertainties using molecular systematics: Salmo dentex and the Balkan trout community", has been accepted for publication in Hydrobiologia

We will remember John's submittion in Nature as the rejection arrived in his mailbox in about half an hour. This is apparently called "the Nature rodeo". Hydrobiologia reviewers had about 90% of very relevant issues, but of course there was the standard "Reviewer #2: The English needs to be improved". The same happened even when we had 2 native English speakers as co-authors.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ožbalt sampling

Searching for genetically pure populations of brown trout in Slovenia is still going on. This time we went to the Drava valley close to the hydroelectric power plant Ožbalt. Mr. Grace, the fish-warden of the Fishery Association Radlje ob Dravi, led us to the tributaries Kapusov potok and Suha. We were sampling above very impressive dams, and both streams have been unmanaged at least since 1980 according to Mr. Grace. Sounds promising.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In other news

Dentex paper was accepted after several failed attempts, we will all remember the Nature roller coaster experience. More details about this paper in the near future, the title is "Resolving taxonomic uncertainties using molecular systematics: Salmo dentex and the Balkan trout community", authors are Aleš Snoj, Branko Glamuzina, Andrej Razpet, John Zablocki, Ivan Bogut, Estelle Lerceteau-Köhler, Naris Pojskić and Simona Sušnik.

National Geographic paper (in Slovenian) is now available.

After spending the last few years working with students, Karst shepherds, Carniolan honey bees and cattle, Andrej has started with his basic postdoc project Immune response and behaviour of domesticated and wild brown trout financed by the Slovenian Research Agency for the next 2 years.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Looking for a new PhD student

Aleš is looking for a new PhD student, who will move away from fish and work on genetics of date mussels (Lithophaga lithophaga). More details are available on our site in english and slovenian.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Intermediate report

As mentioned before, BTRG and Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia have started systematic screening of brown trout populations across Slovenia in order to assess the extent of “foreign blood” in native brown trout, to locate genetically pure populations and to promote an action plan for rehabilitation and preservation of native brown trout stocks.

An intermediate report was just published in the Ribič journal (in Slovenian). Essentially, members of local fishing societies and Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia provided fin clip samples for our group, Gašper participated in several sampling expeditions and Klavdija did most of the work in the laboratory. 1070 samples from 44 locations were analysed, 4 putatively genetically pure populations of brown trout were found, 40 populations show various degrees of hybridization with domesticated strain of brown trout (Atlantic lineage).

The search for more genetically pure populations that could be used for restoration of native brown trout in hybridized populations continues.

Monday, March 29, 2010

National Geographic

Cooperation with Arne has produced a paper in Slovenian edition of National Geographic about marble trout from Slovenia and Softmouth trout from Herzegovina (The River Vrljika). We have the permission to put the paper on our site at the end of April, but until then only abstract is available (in Slovenian).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


ARKive is an organization that is "Promoting the Conservation of the World's Threatened Species, Through the Power of Wildlife Imagery". They included our material in S. obtusirostris and S. ohridanus sections (with permission).

For undergraduate students

We have added two new thesis titles to the list (Slovenian version here). All undergraduate students interested should contact Aleš.

New thesis titles are:
  • The origins of Slovenian populations of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
    Rainbow trout is not native to Slovenia, but after extensive stocking some self-sustaining viable populations were formed. Students are expected to collect samples from these populations, isolate DNA from fin clips and perform genotypization over a number of highly polymorphic microsatellite loci. Results will be compared to population studies of North-American studies to identify parental population(s).
  • Tolerance of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) embryos to Pseudomonas fluorescens
    P. fluorescens is opportunistic fish pathogen and is not a health risk to people and animals, but it does increase mortality of fish embryos. Experiment is run in parallels with different exposures to P. fluorescens against control (no infection). All phases of embryo development are examined with a microscope, the entire experiment is performed on freshly fertilised fish eggs in our laboratory.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Introducing Nejc

Named Nejc after Neal Armstrong, the greatest man who walked the faces of Earth and Moon (not at the same time). Currently finishing Biology at Universitas Labacensis. In a year and a half I will be on the job market, so anybody interested in me can send an e-mail to

Important information about me: if I was a Transformer, I would be a yellow VW T3 van (Transporter Transformer) with cool Cottus gobio stickers on the hood. C. gobio is a super cool benthic fish and the subject of my graduation thesis. I will try to determine phylogenetic relations between different populations of probably two different species of the Cottus genus. Aleš Snoj is my mentor, I know you are all familiar with his work and describing him would just make me look like an ass kisser. And same goes to all members of BTRG, especially my working chief Anja. Glad to be on baord.