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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13768

Genetic evidence from embryos suggests a new species of skate related to Bathyraja parmifera (Rajiformes: Arhynchobatidae) in the Bering Sea

Ingrid Spies*, James Orr, Duane Stevenson, Pam Goddard, Gerald Hoff, Jared Guthridge, Chris Rooper

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Several new species of oviparous skates of the genus Bathyraja have been identified over the past 2 decades, yet it is possible that a complete understanding of species diversity among this group has not been achieved. We used genetics and morphology to screen for the presence of species-level differentiation among embryos from nursery areas in the eastern Bering Sea that were initially identified as the Alaska skate Bathyraja parmifera. A sample of 57 embryos from Pervenets Canyon differed significantly at SNP loci from 297 other B. parmifera samples, and differences were on the order of those observed between B. parmifera and the leopard skate B. panthera. This sample of embryos was similar to B. parmifera at the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) mitochondrial locus. We discuss whether this group of embryos may represent an undescribed cryptic species. Although morphological description of adults is required for a complete species description, only embryo samples were available. Even so, results presented here are a step toward understanding, managing, and conserving the diversity of skate species in the North Pacific Ocean.