• Cyprinidae;
  • Leuciscus cephalus;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • phylogeography;
  • Pleistocene


A phylogeographic analysis of mitochondrial DNA variation was performed in order to test the hypothesis of a postglacial recolonization of mid- and north-European rivers from a Danubian refuge. Over 345 chub specimens from European rivers covering most of the species’ native range were investigated using 600 bp of the cytochrome b gene. Chub in European rivers belong to four highly divergent mitochondrial groups (lineages) differing by mean divergence estimates from 5.2% to 7.89%. These four lineages have a largely allopatric distribution, implying four geographical sets: two Mediterranean, and two north-European sets. This pattern provided strong evidence for: (i) the eradication of this species from most of Europe during maximum ice extent; (ii) its survival in four refugia (Adriatic side of the Balkans, eastern Greece (Aegean Rivers), southern tributaries of the Danube, and periphery of Black and Caspian Seas); (iii) a differential postglacial recolonization of mid- and northern Europe from the last two refugia only; (iv) the occurrence of this recolonization in two steps for the Danubian (western) lineage that entered western Europe (Rhine–Rhone–Loire drainages) during the Riss–Würm interglacial period and survived the last glaciation there before colonizing Garonne, UK and German drainages up to the Elbe during the Holocene; and (v) the occurrence of this recolonization in a single step for the Ponto-Caspian (eastern) lineage that entered the Baltic area as far as the Oder in the Holocene. Both lineages came into contact in the River Elbe without evident mixing.