Knowl. Manag. Aquat. Ecosyst.
Number 420, 2019
Topical Issue on Fish Ecology
Article Number 15
Number of page(s) 6
Published online 11 March 2019

© J. Vukić et al., Published by EDP Sciences 2019

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1 Introduction

Mediterranean rivers host considerable part of the European freshwater fish species. Majority of the freshwater fishes from this area are endemics, many of them occurring only in a few or even a single river basin (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). However, at the same time, the Mediterranean rivers are strongly negatively affected by human activities, including both intentional and unintentional introductions of alien fish species (Marr et al., 2013).

The Neretva river basin (Adriatic Sea slope, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia), including the endorheic karstic field drainages connected only underground with the main river, is characterised by a high degree of endemism of freshwater fishes. It is inhabited by 34 native freshwater species (Tab. S1), 17 of which are endemic solely to this basin and some of them were described only recently (Bogutskaya and Zupančič, 2003; Kovačić, 2005; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007; Buj et al., 2010, 2014; Bogutskaya et al., 2012; Glamuzina et al., 2013; Tutman et al., 2017a). Unfortunately, also alien species have been recorded from this river basin, and their number is as high as 31 (Tab. S2) (Glamuzina et al., 2013, 2017; Dulčić et al., 2017; Tutman et al., 2017b; Šukalo et al., 2018). The majority of the introduced species are considered to have a strong negative impact on the native fishes (Glamuzina et al., 2017). Moreover, their number still increases.

The aim of this work is to provide the information on a new alien species record from the Neretva river basin, spirlin Alburnoides sp. (Leuciscidae sensu Schönhuth et al., 2018), and its probable origin, based on a molecular identification.

2 Materials and methods

Several specimens of Alburnoides were obtained on 4–5 October 2016, from two localities within the Neretva river basin: the Neretva river in Jablanica (N 43°39′55″ E 17°45′47″) and the Drežnica river (a tributary of the Neretva river) in Donja Drežnica (N 43°31′31″ E 17°42′51″), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Fig. 1). All specimens were collected by a local sport fisherman, either by a small lift net or by fly fishing. The specimens were sacrificed by over-anaesthetisation by quinaldine. A piece of fin tissue was stored in 96% ethanol for subsequent molecular analyses. The voucher specimens were preserved in 4% solution of formaldehyde immediately after the collection, and later transferred to 70% ethanol and stored in the ichthyological collection of the National Museum in Prague (collection numbers NMP P6V 144776–144793). Since the taxonomy of Alburnoides in Europe, and especially in the Balkans, is still unresolved, i.e. the genus includes cryptic species (Stierandová et al., 2016), and morphological data enabling identification are missing for many species/populations, we used molecular data for identification.

The DNA extraction, PCR reactions, amplification protocol and PCR product purification follow Šanda et al. (2008a). Sequencing was carried out by the Macrogen Service Centre Europe (Amsterdam, Netherlands) using the internal primers from Stierandová et al. (2016).

The sequences were aligned manually and revised in Geneious R9.1. The final alignment included 1140 base pairs of cytochrome b. Previously published sequences of cytochrome b of the available European species/clades of Alburnoides (Stierandová et al., 2016) were included in the analyses. Alburnus filippii was used as outgroup. New sequences were deposited in GenBank under the accession numbers MH656906–MH656910. The details about the samples used for the molecular data analyses are included in Table S3.

The best fitting model of nucleotide substitution was estimated using JModelTest 0.1.1 (Posada, 2008). The GTR+G model was selected using Akaike information criterion. A Bayesian analysis was conducted using MrBayes v. 3.1.2 (Huelsenbeck and Ronquist, 2001). Two runs, each consisting of four Monte Carlo Markov Chains, were run simultaneously for 10 000 000 generations with sampling trees every 100 generations. The first 25% of trees were discarded as burn-in and the remaining trees were used to construct a 50% majority-rule consensus tree. The posterior probabilities indicate the branch supports in the final tree.

A detailed reconstruction of relationships of the haplotypes of Alburnoides population from the Neretva river basin and other most closely related populations was performed by a statistical parsimony method under a 95% connection limit, using TCS v. 1.21 (Clement et al., 2000).

thumbnail Fig. 1

Map of the Neretva river basin. Localities with Alburnoides sp. indicated: Neretva river in Jablanica (★) and the Drežnica river (tributary of the Neretva river) in Donja Drežnica (▪). Upper left corner: a photo of alive specimen of Alburnoides sp. from the Drežnica river.

3 Results

The size of the 18 collected specimens ranged from 26 mm to 91 mm standard length. Based on the molecular analyses of cytochrome b gene of 12 specimens (Fig. 2), the population from the Neretva river basin belongs to Alburnoides sp. 1 sensu Stierandová et al. (2016) inhabiting the Sava river basin (Danube river basin, Black Sea slope). Some of the observed haplotypes are identical to already published ones in Stierandová et al. (2016), several are new (NER1-4, Fig. 3), but all of them are either identical to (including the most frequent one, H82) or greatly similar to the ones belonging to the specimens originating from the Vrbas and the Bosna river basins (Fig. 3); both rivers are tributaries of the Sava river (see Fig. 1).

thumbnail Fig. 2

Phylogenetic tree of cytochrome b sequences of Alburnoides spp. based on Bayesian inference method. Samples from the Neretva river basin are indicated by asterisk. Numbers on the branches indicate the posterior probability support. Lineages named according to Stierandová et al. (2016).

thumbnail Fig. 3

Haplotype network of cytochrome b sequences of Alburnoides sp. 1 sensu Stierandová et al. (2016) constructed by statistical parsimony method under a 95% connection limit. Haplotype codes correspond to information on samples in Table S3.

4 Discussion

The knowledge on the diversity of spirlin (Alburnoides) in Europe was updated only very recently, mostly owning to analyses of DNA sequence data (Geiger et al., 2014; Stierandová et al., 2016). One decade ago only three species of spirlin were recognised (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). Later, three new species were described, two of which from Albania (Bogutskaya et al., 2010) and one from Greece (Barbieri et al., 2017). However, the molecular data revealed a presence of altogether 17 evolutionary lineages of Alburnoides in Europe (Stierandová et al., 2016). Eleven of these were possible to assign to the previously described taxa (Levin et al., 2016; Stierandová et al., 2016; Barbieri et al., 2017), two are considered to represent yet undescribed species, while the Alburnoides prespensis complex requires further taxonomic clarification (Stierandová et al., 2016).

No Alburnoides species has been known from the Neretva river basin (Glamuzina et al., 2013). Several species of the genus occur in adjacent regions. In the Ohrid-Drin-Skadar basin and some other Albanian rivers, A. ohridanus is present (Stierandová et al., 2016). Further to the south, the Albanian basins host A. prespensis complex (A. prespensis, A. fangfangae and A. devolli) (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007; Bogutskaya et al., 2010; Stierandová et al., 2016). Geographically very close Danubian basin rivers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, all tributaries of the Sava river, are inhabited by Alburnoides sp. 1 sensu Stierandová et al. (2016), whereas Danubian rivers located more easterly (Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania) are inhabited by Alburnoides sp. 2 sensu Stierandová et al. (2016).

We used a molecular approach to identify the newly recorded Alburnoides population from the Neretva river. Comprehensive comparative dataset is available for the mitochondrial marker cytochrome b for the European Alburnoides (Stierandová et al., 2016; Barbieri et al., 2017). Our analysis identified the population from the Neretva river as Alburnoides sp. 1 (Fig. 2). This still undescribed species inhabits the Sava river basin, which belongs to the Danube basin. It was reported, based on molecular data, from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia (Stierandová et al., 2016).

The ichthyofauna of the Neretva river basin is very specific, comprising many species endemic only to this basin. Only two species are considered to be shared with the adjacent rivers belonging to the Danube river basin. Molecular data provided an evidence on the conspecificity of Phoxinus from the Neretva river and some karstic basins connected underground to it, with the populations from the Danubian rivers (Palandačić et al., 2015). The other case is Cottus gobio; however, the relationships of populations of Cottus from the Neretva River and the Danube basin are awaiting clarification. Both Phoxinus and Cottus are considered native to the Neretva river basin (Karaman, 1928; Glamuzina et al., 2013) and were known from here since the first report about the ichthyofauna of the Neretva river basin (Karaman, 1928), unlike Alburnoides, which has never been recorded before from this river (see the discussion below). No contemporary connection between the Neretva river basin and Sava tributaries is known, neither surface nor underground (Palandačić et al., 2015, for details see their Supplementary material), thus natural dispersion of Alburnoides from the Sava to the Neretva river basin is unlikely.

Although it is currently abundant, there are no previous records of Alburnoides from the Neretva river basin in any of the numerous faunistic papers (i.e. Karaman, 1928; Kosorić and Vuković, 1966; Kosorić, 1974, 1977, 1978; Vuković, 1977; Kosorić et al., 1989; Šanda et al., 2008b; Glamuzina et al., 2013). This indicates that it is an introduced species. There are no data on the possible time of introduction, but as it was not mentioned by Glamuzina et al. (2013, 2017), it is presumably a case of rather recent introduction. The cytochrome b haplotypes of the specimens from the Neretva river basin are identical or very similar to those from the Vrbas and Bosna river basins in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Fig. 3). This fact suggests the introduction from the nearby located area of the Danube river basin, most probably directly within the country. Both juveniles and adults were present, and the species is quite common at both places from which we have obtained samples, thus we consider the population to be well established.

Alburnoides sp. is the 32nd alien species recorded in the Neretva river basin (see Tab. S2) (Glamuzina et al., 2013, 2017; Dulčić et al., 2017; Tutman et al., 2017b; Šukalo et al., 2018). Although not all alien species adapted successfully (Glamuzina et al., 2017), the presence of such a high number of alien species, which approaches the number of native freshwater species ever recorded in the basin (34–see Tab. S1) and almost doubles the number of endemic species (17–see Tab. S1), is alarming. Very high proportions of the alien versus native species were observed also in other rivers of the Adriatic Sea slope (Jelić et al., 2016). A high proportion of the alien species in the Neretva river basin had been most probably translocated from the geographically very closely located Danube basin (Black Sea slope) − 14 species (see Tab. S2), which is almost a half of the total number of the introduced species in this river basin. Translocations were also documented in other Mediterranean countries, such as Greece or Italy, and even concern several endemic species (Bianco and Ketmaier, 2001; Koutsikos et al., 2012; Bianco, 2014; Barbieri et al., 2015). In the case of the Neretva river basin, translocations can be particularly dangerous because ecologically and morphologically similar species of the same genera inhabit both the Neretva and the Danube basins (e.g. Alburnus, Chondrostoma, Squalius, Rutilus, Scardinius, etc.) and can replace the native species. As a deterrent example, extinction of the native Protochondostoma genei in the Soča river in Slovenia was observed after the introduction of Chondrostoma nasus from the Danube basin (Povž, 1995).

We assume an important negative role of the sport fishery management in the spreading of non-native species in the Neretva river basin, as a result of intentional introductions of commercially important species (like Cyprinus carpio, Sander lucioperca, etc.), which are obviously accompanied by unintentional introductions of other, commercially unimportant, species (Gymnocephalus cernuus, Pseudorasbora parva, etc.) (Glamuzina et al., 2017). Alburnoides sp., a species without any economic importance, was probably introduced unintentionally or as a bait fish.

The native fish assemblage of the Neretva river basin is undoubtfully threatened by introductions of alien fish species. It is indispensable to raise public awareness especially among the local fishermen to prevent further increase of the number of the alien fish species.


We are highly grateful to Sanid Džino from Jablanica for collection of the Alburnoides specimens, and Ivan Bogut for big help in organisation of the work in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This work was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (DKRVO2019-2023/6.V.a, National Museum, 00023272). Jasna Vukić was supported by the institutional resources of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic.


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Cite this article as: Vukić J, Eliášová K, Marić D, Šanda R. 2019. Occurrence of alien spirlin (Alburnoides sp.) in the Neretva river basin. Knowl. Manag. Aquat. Ecosyst., 420, 15.

Supplementary Material

Table S1 List of native fish species recorded from the Neretva river basin (including the karstic fields) based on the published data.

Table S2. List of introduced fish species recorded from the Neretva river basin (including karstic fields) based on the published data.

Table S3 List of samples and sequences used in the study. Information about the lineage according to Stierandová et al. (2016), locality, coordinates, haplotype, GenBank accession number and source included.

(Access here)

All Figures

thumbnail Fig. 1

Map of the Neretva river basin. Localities with Alburnoides sp. indicated: Neretva river in Jablanica (★) and the Drežnica river (tributary of the Neretva river) in Donja Drežnica (▪). Upper left corner: a photo of alive specimen of Alburnoides sp. from the Drežnica river.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 2

Phylogenetic tree of cytochrome b sequences of Alburnoides spp. based on Bayesian inference method. Samples from the Neretva river basin are indicated by asterisk. Numbers on the branches indicate the posterior probability support. Lineages named according to Stierandová et al. (2016).

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 3

Haplotype network of cytochrome b sequences of Alburnoides sp. 1 sensu Stierandová et al. (2016) constructed by statistical parsimony method under a 95% connection limit. Haplotype codes correspond to information on samples in Table S3.

In the text

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