As populations diverge, genomic regions associated with adaptation display elevated differentiation. These genomic islands of adaptive divergence can inform conservation efforts in exploited species, by refining the delineation of management units, and providing genomic tools for more precise and effective population monitoring and the successful assignment of individuals and products. We explored heterogeneity in genomic divergence and its impact on the resolution of spatial population structure in exploited populations of Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, using genome wide expressed sequence derived single nucleotide polymorphisms in 466 individuals sampled across the range. Outlier tests identified elevated divergence at 5.2% of SNPs, consistent with directional selection in one-third of linkage groups. Genomic regions of elevated divergence ranged in size from a single position to several cM. Structuring at neutral loci was associated with geographic features, whereas outlier SNPs revealed genetic discontinuities in both the eastern and western Atlantic. This fine-scale geographic differentiation enhanced assignment to region of origin, and through the identification of adaptive diversity, fundamentally changes how these populations should be conserved. This work demonstrates the utility of genome scans for adaptive divergence in the delineation of stock structure, the traceability of individuals and products, and ultimately a role for population genomics in fisheries conservation.
Keywords: Atlantic cod; divergent selection; genome scan; outlier loci; population genomics; single nucleotide polymorphism.