Evolution and genetics of bighead and silver carps: Native population conservation versus invasive species control

Guoqing Lu, Chenghui Wang, Jinliang Zhao, Xiaolin Liao, Jun Wang, Mingkun Luo, Lifeng Zhu, Louis Bernatzhez, Sifa Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and silver carp (H. molitrix), collectively called bigheaded carps, are cyprinids native mainly to China and have been introduced to over 70 countries. Paleontological and molecular phylogenetic analyses demonstrate bighead and silver carps originated from the Yangtze-Huanghe River basins and modern populations may have derived from the secondary contact of geographically isolated fish during the last glacial events. Significant genetic differences are found among populations of native rivers (Yangtze, Pearl, and Amur) as well as introduced/invasive environments (Mississippi R., USA and Danube R., Hungary), suggesting genetic backgrounds and ecological selection may play a role in population differentiation. Population divergence of bighead carp or silver carp has occurred within their native rivers, whereas, within the Mississippi River Basin (MRB)—an introduced region, such genetic differentiation is likely taking place at least in silver carp. Interspecific hybridization between silver and bighead carps is rare within their native regions; however, extensive hybridization is observed in the MRB, which could be contributed by a shift to a more homogenous environment that lacks reproductive isolation barriers for the restriction of gene flow between species. The wild populations of native bighead and silver carps have experienced dramatic declines; in contrast, the introduced bigheaded carps overpopulate the MRB and are considered two invasive species, which strongly suggests fishing capacity (overfishing and underfishing) be a decisive factor for fishery resource exploitation and management. This review provides not only a global perspective of evolutionary history and population divergence of bigheaded carps but also a forum that calls for international research collaborations to deal with critical issues related to native population conservation and invasive species control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1351-1362
Number of pages12
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • bigheaded carps
  • evolution
  • invasive species control
  • native population conservation
  • natural hybridization
  • population genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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