Highly variable loci can provide insight into the recognition of species, evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) and management units (MUs). In general, the ESU and MU categories are thought to be reflective of adaptive differences between them. Here we examine this premise by presenting a comprehensive examination of genetic variation for both microsatellite loci and a major histocompatibility complex (MHC) locus, thought to be of adaptive significance, in the endangered Sonoran topminnow. The extent of variation for the microsatellite loci and the MHC gene within the 13 populations of the Gila topminnow is highly correlated, suggesting that nonselective factors have played an important role in influencing variation within and between populations for the MHC locus. Therefore, using all of these loci, we found that the eight natural populations of the Gila topminnow fell into two different ESUs, one of which had four different MUs. The source of the Boyce Thompson sample, a population that was used extensively for restocking, appeared to be Monkey Spring. The source of the Watson Wash population also appeared to be Monkey Spring (or Boyce Thompson). The newly colonized Santa Cruz River population, which had the most genetic variation of any Gila topminnow population, appeared to descend primarily from Sonoita Creek populations. The Yaqui topminnow, presently considered another subspecies of the Sonoran topminnow, was very distinct for both microsatellite (only two of 25 alleles found in the Yaqui were in any of the Gila topminnow samples) and MHC alleles (nonoverlapping sets of alleles for the two groups). As a result, it appeared that the taxonomic status of the two subspecies should be re-evaluated and that full species status for Gila and Yaqui topminnows was appropriate. There was evidence for the importance of long-term selection at the MHC locus in the higher rate of nonsynonymous than synonymous substitution. In addition, there appeared to have been a duplication of the MHC locus that was present in most of the fish in six of the natural populations of the Gila topminnow.