Moderate nucleotide diversity in the Atlantic herring is associated with a low mutation rate

Elife. 2017 Jun 30;6:e23907. doi: 10.7554/eLife.23907.


The Atlantic herring is one of the most abundant vertebrates on earth but its nucleotide diversity is moderate (π = 0.3%), only three-fold higher than in human. Here, we present a pedigree-based estimation of the mutation rate in this species. Based on whole-genome sequencing of four parents and 12 offspring, the estimated mutation rate is 2.0 × 10-9 per base per generation. We observed a high degree of parental mosaicism indicating that a large fraction of these de novo mutations occurred during early germ cell development. The estimated mutation rate - the lowest among vertebrates analyzed to date - partially explains the discrepancy between the rather low nucleotide diversity in herring and its huge census population size. But a species like the herring will never reach its expected nucleotide diversity because of fluctuations in population size over the millions of years it takes to build up high nucleotide diversity.

Keywords: evolution; evolutionary biology; genomics; mutation; nucleotide diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fishes / genetics*
  • Mutation Rate*
  • Nucleotides / genetics*
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


  • Nucleotides

Grant support

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.