Atlantic salmon (n = 1682) from 27 anadromous river populations and two nonanadromous strains ranging from south-central Maine, USA to northern Spain were genotyped at 12 microsatellite DNA loci. This suite of moderate to highly polymorphic loci revealed 266 alleles (5–37/locus) range-wide. Statistically significant allelic and genotypic heterogeneity was observed across loci between all but one pairwise comparison. Significant isolation by distance was found within and between North American and European populations, indicating reduced gene flow at all geographical scales examined. North American Atlantic salmon populations had fewer alleles, fewer unique alleles (though at a higher frequency) and a shallower phylogenetic structure than European Atlantic salmon populations. We believe these characteristics result from the differing glacial histories of the two continents, as the North American range of Atlantic salmon was glaciated more recently and more uniformly than the European range. Genotypic assignment tests based on maximum-likelihood provided 100% correct classification to continent of origin and averaged nearly 83% correct classification to province of origin across continents. This multilocus method, which may be enhanced with additional polymorphic loci, provides fishery managers the highest degree of correct assignment to management unit of any technique currently available.
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