Genetic diversity and population structure of farmed and wild Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in Uganda: The potential for aquaculture selection and breeding programs

Diego Robledo, Joel Ogwang, Ezra Byakora, Jennifer Nascimento Schulze, Katali Kirungi Benda, Clemence Fraslin, Sarah Salisbury, Moses Solimo, Johnson Francis Mayega, Beine Peter, Charles Masembe, Ross Houston, Robert Mukiibi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Nile tilapia is one of the most important aquaculture species globally, providing high-quality animal protein for human nutrition and a source of income to sustain the livelihoods of many people in low- and middle-income countries. This species is native to Africa and nowadays farmed throughout the world. However, the genetic makeup of its native populations remains poorly characterized. Additionally, there has been important introgression and movement of farmed (as well as wild) strains connected to tilapia aquaculture in Africa, yet the relationship between wild and farmed populations is unknown in most of the continent. Genetic characterization of the species in Africa has the potential to support the conservation of the species as well as supporting selective breeding to improve the indigenous strains for sustainable and profitable aquaculture production. In the current study, a total of 382 fish were used to investigate the genetic structure, diversity, and ancestry within and between Ugandan Nile tilapia populations from three major lakes including Lake Albert (L. Albert), Lake Kyoga (L. Kyoga) and Lake Victoria (L. Victoria), and 10 hatchery farms located in the catchment regions of these lakes. Our results showed clear genetic structure of the fish sourced from the lakes, with L. Kyoga and L. Albert populations showing higher genetic similarity. We also observed noticeable genetic structure among farmed populations, with most of them being genetically similar to L. Albert and L. Kyoga fish. Admixture results showed a higher (2.55-52.75%) contribution of L. Albert / L. Kyoga stocks to Uganda's farmed fish than the stock from L. Victoria (2.12-28.02%). We observed relatively high genetic diversity across both wild and farmed populations, but some farms had sizable numbers of highly inbred fish, raising concerns about management practices. In addition, we identified a genomic region on chromosome 5, harbouring the key innate immune gene BPI and the key growth gene GHRH, putatively under selection in the Ugandan Nile tilapia population. This region overlaps with the genomic region previously identified to be associated with growth rate in farmed Nile tilapia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110781
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • population genetics
  • selective breeding
  • tilapia
  • aquaculture
  • fish
  • Africa


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