Population structure and genetic diversity of black redhorse (Moxostoma duquesnei) in a highly fragmented watershed

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Dams have the potential to affect population size and connectivity, reduce genetic diversity, and increase genetic differences among isolated riverine fish populations. Previous research has reported adverse effects on the distribution and demographics of black redhorse (Moxostoma duquesnei), a threatened fish species in Canada. However, effects on genetic diversity and population structure are unknown. We used microsatellite DNA markers to assess the number of genetic populations in the Grand River (Ontario) and to test whether dams have resulted in a loss of genetic diversity and increased genetic differentiation among populations. Three hundred and seventy-seven individuals from eight Grand River sites were genotyped at eight microsatellite loci. Measures of genetic diversity were moderately high and not significantly different among populations; strong evidence of recent population bottlenecks was not detected. Pairwise FST and exact tests identified weak (global FST = 0.011) but statistically significant population structure, although little population structuring was detected using either genetic distances or an individual-based clustering method. Neither geographic distance nor the number of intervening dams were correlated with pairwise differences among populations. Tests for regional equilibrium indicate that Grand River populations were either in equilibrium between gene flow and genetic drift or that gene flow is more influential than drift. While studies on other species have identified strong dam-related effects on genetic diversity and population structure, this study suggests that barrier permeability, river fragment length and the ecological characteristics of affected species can counterbalance dam-related effects.

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