Population subdivision in westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi) at the northern periphery of its range: evolutionary inferences and conservation implications

Authors

  • E. B. Taylor,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology and Native Fish Research Group, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4;
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  • M. D. Stamford,

    1. Department of Zoology and Native Fish Research Group, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4;
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  • J. S. Baxter

    1. Baxter Environmental, 209 2nd Street, Nelson, BC, Canada, V1L 2K9
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    • Present address: BC Hydro, 601 18th Street, Castelgar, BC, Canada, V1N 4G7


E. B. Taylor. Fax: 604-822-2416; E-mail: etaylor@zoology.ubc.ca

Abstract

Westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi, Salmonidae) are native to the upper Columbia, Missouri, and South Saskatchewan river drainages of western North America and are at the northern periphery of their range in southeastern British Columbia, Canada. We examined geographical variation in allele frequencies at eight microsatellite loci in 36 samples of westslope cutthroat trout from British Columbia to assess levels of population subdivision and to test the hypothesis that different habitat types (principally mainstem vs. above migration barrier habitats) would influence levels of genetic diversity, genetic divergence among populations, and attainment of equilibrium between gene flow and genetic drift. Across all samples, the mean number of alleles per locus was 3.9 and mean expected heterozygosity was 0.56. Population subdivision was extensive with an overall Fst (θ) of 0.32. Populations sampled above migration barriers had significantly fewer alleles, lower expected heterozygosity, but greater average pairwise Fst than populations sampled from mainstem localities. We found evidence for isolation-by-distance from a significant correlation between genetic distance and geographical distance (r = 0.31), but the pattern was much stronger (r = 0.51) when above barrier populations and a population that may have been involved in headwater exchanges were removed. By contrast, isolation-by-distance was not observed when only above barrier populations were tested among themselves. Our data support the maintenance of separate demographic management strategies for westslope cutthroat trout inhabiting different river systems and illustrate how differing habitat structure (e.g. presence of migration barriers) may influence patterns of biodiversity and gene flow-drift equilibrium.

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