• arctic charr;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • phylogeography;
  • Pleistocene zoogeography;
  • postglacial dispersal;
  • Salvelinus


Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was used to reconstruct postglacial dispersal routes of arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus in North America. Twelve of 35 restriction enzymes detected polymorphisms among representative populations, revealing two distinct lineages with an estimated nucleotide divergence of 1.32%. Subsequent screening of 869 fish from 54 populations with four diagnostic restriction enzymes showed that these lineages have largely allopatric distributions, suggesting their dispersal from separate northern and eastern glacial refugia. In addition, geographical and genetic structure among eastern populations suggested the existence of a second eastern refuge. Among the three lineages, the most divergent (Arctic) lineage occurred from Alaska east to northern Labrador. Quebec, New Brunswick, and New England were colonized by a second (Laurentian) lineage, and Labrador by a third group. Contact between refugial groups was only detected in two Labrador populations. The Arctic lineage was highly differentiated from eastern North American and European haplotypes, and probably diverged during the early Pleistocene. By contrast, the Laurentian and Labrador groups were similar to Old World charr, suggesting a shared ancestry during the mid-Pleistocene. In addition, the close relationship between Labrador and Laurentian charr indicates their probable divergence during the Wisconsinan glaciation.