Anti Vasemägi (PhD, docent)

Present address:
Dept. of Biology
Natura-building, office 121
20014 University of Turku

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Current research projects

My ongoing projects fall into four boad areas: i) Analysis of genetic footprints of selection; ii) Genetic responses to climate change; iii) Analysis of contemporary natural selection and fisheries induced evolution; iv) Analyses of environmental DNA for detection of invasive species and pathogens.


Environmental DNA analysis of invasive species in the Baltic Sea.

Participants: PhD student: Tiia Forsström, Prof. V. Jormalainen, Dr. O. Vesakoski, University of Turku. Funding: UTUGS.

Evolution in action – how natural selection affects physiological traits?

Despite that the amount of information about directional selection on morphological traits in natural populations has increased dramatically in the past decades, selection on physiological traits has remained largely unknown. Consequently, this project aims to quantify the strenght and mode of contemporary natural selection on various physiological trials (incl. protein activities and gene expression) using mark-recapture approach combined with PIT-tagging and molecular genetic analyses in juvenile Atlantic salmon in multiple natural habitats.
Participants: PhD student S. Kahar; Dr. J-P. Vähä, University of Turku; Prof. J. Erkinaro, Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute; Dr. K. Vuori, Laboratory of Animal Physiology, University of Turku.
Estonian Science Foundation, SA Archimedes, Finnish Academy.

Host-parasite relationships in changing natural environment - Genetic responses of brown trout (Salmo trutta) to myxozoan parasite T. bryosalmonae.

Several salmonid pathogens, such as the myxozoan Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae causing proliferative kidney disease (PKD), are expected to expand its distribution and increase in virulence in increasing temperatures. PKD is currently considered one of the most serious parasitic diseases of salmonid fishes being responsible for high mortalities in fish farms as well as in natural populations. This project focuses on evaluation of the genetic impact of T. bryosalmonae on brown trout genome by studying historical and contemporary DNA samples.
Participants: PhD student M. Dash; Dr. M. Bruneaux, University of Turku; Prof. P. Hõrak, University of Tartu; PhD student M. Visse, University of Tartu; Prof. R. Gross, Estonian University of Life Sciences.
Dash & Vasemägi (2012) Mol Ecol Res, 12, 779-781; Dash & Vasemägi (2014) Diseases of Aquatic Org, in press. Funding: Estonian Science Foundation, Biological Interactions graduate school (BIOINT).

Molecular genetic and phenotypic analyses of fisheries-induced evolution of Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis) in the Baltic Sea.

It is increasingly recognized that modern fishing results in substantial changes of mortality patterns and as a result, evolutionary responses of stocks are inevitable. These changes are not slow – it has been demonstrated that significant evolution can occur within tens of years. However, life-history evolution has traditionally been studied traditionally only at phenotypic level and there is much less empirical evidence that modern fishing indeed causes significant genetic changes in widely distributed fish species. This project aims study fisheries-induced evolution at both phenotypic and molecular level to further understand the causes of life-history changes of Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis) in the Baltic Sea.
Participants: PhD student L. Pukk; Dr. A. Kuparinen, University of Helsinki; Prof. R. Gross, Estonian University of Life Sciences; Dr L. Järv, Estonian Marine Institute.
Pukk et al. (2013) Evolutionary Applications 6, 749–760. Pukk et al. (2014) Cons Gen Res 6, 183–184. Funding: Estonian Science Foundation.

Genetic, physiological and ecological characterization of an invasive bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and its effect on native sibling species in a changing climate

The buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, has been widely used since the late 1980s around the world in greenhouses and later also in outdoor gardens for pollination. In Finland this species is rare in the nature and no nests have so far been reported. However, it has been used since 1987 in greenhouses and 1995 at orchards, and recently the commercial breeding of the B. terrestris dispersing from the south into Finland has started. By using molecular genetic approaches, this project aims to: i) identify whether the buff-tailed bumblebee (B. terrestris) queens hibernating in Finland are naturally dispersed or domesticated runaways from greenhouses and ii) further characterize the the genetic relationships between the buff-tailed bumblebee and its sibling species.
Participants: PhD student S-R. Vesterlund; Dr. J. Sorvari, University of Turku.
Vesterlund et al. (2014) Mol Ecol Res, 14, 122-126. Vesterlund et al. (2014) Ent Fennica, in press. Funding: Maj and Thor Nessling's Foundation.

Hitchhiking mapping to identify genome regions involved in domestication: testing for evidence of parallel evolution

Domestication of animals and plants has played fundamental role in human evolution and also provides a unique opportunity to identify the genetic basis of artificial selection and adaptation to the captive environment. Recent success in finding genes and specific polymorphisms involved in phenotypic divergence and domestication include identification of several genomic regions in maize, small region in chromosome 3 determining foreshortened limbs in dachshunds and IGF1 polymorphism as a major determinant of small size in dogs. Here, we use Atlantic salmon as a suitable model to test the common genetic basis hypothesis in independent domesticated stocks and its wild progenitor populations.

Papers: Vasemägi A, et al. (2012) Footprints of selection on standing variation during domestication/captive breeding of Atlantic salmon. Comp & Func Genomics.
Finnish Academy. Status: finished.

QTL mapping of genome regions associated with phenotypic traits in early life stages

To date, QTL mapping methods have been extensively used in genetic model organisms, plants and domestic animals but there are only few attempts apply linkage mapping in natural populations to identify the genetic basis of ecologically relevant traits. This project utilizes several genetic linkage mapping methodologies to infer the link between ecologically relevant phenotypic variation both in laboratory and natural environments.

Papers: Vasemägi et al (2010). Discovery and application of insertion-deletion (INDEL) polymorphisms for QTL mapping of early life-history traits in Atlantic salmon. BMC Genomics 11, 156.
Finnish Academy, Estonian Science Foundation. Status: finished.

Development of efficient and cost-effective insertion-deletion (INDEL) genotyping platform for linkage mapping studies

Despite the increasing number of sequenced genomes, our knowledge of the genes that underlie phenotypic differences is sketchy at best. The essential starting point for identifying polymorphisms and genomic regions that cause variation in quantitative traits such as disease susceptibility, growth and behavior is the generation of linkage maps that show the position of genes and genetic markers relative to each other. However, there is no efficient genotyping technology available that would allow fast and cost-effective genotyping of hundreds of genetic markers in thousands of individuals. Therefore, it is expected that the INDEL genotyping platform fills the niche between currently available commercial SNP genotyping platforms (high number of loci, limited number of individuals) and low-throughput microsatellite analysis (low number of loci, high number of individuals).

Objective: Develop the efficient and cost-effective INDEL genotyping platform for the Atlantic salmon.

Papers: Vasemägi et al (2010). Discovery and application of insertion-deletion (INDEL) polymorphisms for QTL mapping of early life-history traits in Atlantic salmon. BMC Genomics 11, 156.
Finnish Academy, Estonian Science Foundation. Status: finished.


North American mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii)

Nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius).


River Altja, Estonia.


Netting for nine-spines in Saaremaa.


Sampling in Mustoja, Estonia.


Sex determination in the dark.


Cold Odalätsi spring provides stable temperature regime for nine-spine sticklebacks


Blood samples from normal (above) and proliferative kidney disease (PKD) infected brown trout (below).


Unknown species...








Page updated May 26, 2016