Reconstructing recent divergence: evaluating nonequilibrium population structure in New Zealand chinook salmon


Michael T. Kinnison. Fax: 1-207-581-2537; E-mail:


Newly established or perturbed populations are often the focus of conservation concerns but they pose special challenges for population genetics because drift−migration equilibrium is unlikely. To advance our understanding of the evolution of such populations, we investigated structure and gene flow among populations of chinook salmon that formed via natural straying following introduction to New Zealand in the early 1900s. We examined 11 microsatellite loci from samples collected in several sites and years to address two questions: (i) what population differentiation has arisen in the ≈ 30 generations since salmon were introduced to New Zealand, relative to temporal variation within populations; and (ii) what are the approximate effective population sizes and amounts of gene flow in these populations? These questions are routinely addressed in studies of indigenous populations, but less often in the case of new populations and rarely with consideration of equilibrium assumptions. We show that despite the recent introduction, continued gene flow and high temporal variability among samples, detectable population structure has arisen among the New Zealand populations, consistent with their colonization pattern and isolation by geographical distance. Furthermore, we use simple individual-based simulations and estimates of effective population sizes to estimate the effective gene flow among drainages under likely nonequilibrium conditions. Similar methodology may be broadly applicable to other studies of population structure and phenotypic evolution under similar nonequilibrium, high gene flow conditions.