Do assemblages of Coregonus (Teleostei: Salmoniformes) in the Central Alpine region of Europe represent species flocks?


  • This paper is the result of a Swiss–Canadian collaboration, and is part of a continuing series of studies on phylogenetic and population genetic questions in salmonid fishes. The study reported is part of Marlis Douglas’ PhD research on systematics and evolutionary biology of Central Alpine Coregonus. Patrick Brunner's PhD studies focused on similar questions in Salvelinus alpinus. The work was carried out whilst visiting the laboratory of Louis Bernatchez whose major research interests centre on the understanding of patterns and processes of molecular and organismal evolution, as well as their significance for conservation.

Marlis R. Douglas Department of Biology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1501, USA. Fax: +1-602-965-0362; E-mail:


To examine models of evolution for Coregonus from the Central Alpine region of Europe, 20 populations from nine lakes were assessed for variation at six microsatellite DNA loci. Patterns of variation were tested against three evolutionary models: phenotypic plasticity, multiple invasions of lakes by divergent forms, and within-lake radiation of species flocks. All sympatric and all but one allopatric pairs of populations were significantly divergent in allele frequencies. Pairwise F-statistics indicated reduced gene flow among phenotypically divergent sympatric populations. These results reject the hypothesis that within-lake morphological and ecological diversity reflects phenotypic plasticity within a single gene pool. Genetic similarity was higher among forms within lakes than between populations of the same form in different lakes. Among-lake divergence was primarily a product of allele size differences. Mantel tests contrasting patterns of genetic divergence against patterns predicted from the multiple invasions and species flocks models indicated that the latter is the best explanation of the observed genetic variation. Thus, reproductively isolated species diverged within lakes, with similar patterns repeatedly emerging among lakes. While this study argues for a particular mode of evolution in Central Alpine Coregonus, the taxonomy of these forms remains unresolved.