To initiate QTL studies in the nonmodel fish Cottus gobio we constructed a genetic map based on 171 microsatellite markers. The mapping panel consisted of F1 intercrosses between two divergent Cottus lineages from the River Rhine System. Basic local alignment search tool (BLAST) searches with the flanking sequences of the microsatellite markers yielded a significant (e < 10(-5)) hit with the Tetraodon nigroviridis genomic sequence for 45% of the Cottus loci. Remarkably, most of these hits were due to short highly conserved noncoding stretches. These have an average length of 40 bp and are on average 92% conserved. Comparison of the map locations between the two genomes revealed extensive conserved synteny, suggesting that the Tetraodon genomic sequence will serve as an excellent genomic reference for at least the Acanthopterygii, which include evolutionarily interesting fish groups such as guppies (Poecilia), cichlids (Tilapia) or Xiphophorus (Platy). The apparent high density of short conserved noncoding stretches in these fish genomes will highly facilitate the identification of genes that have been identified in QTL mapping strategies of evolutionary relevant traits.