Genetic differentiation among local populations and morphotypes of Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus

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Abstract

The systematica of coexisting morphotypes of Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus, has been a matter of dispute ever since the days of Linnaeus. Widespread allelic variation at an esterase locus has led some investigators to propose that the morphotypes reflect a complex of at least three sibling species. We tested this hypothesis by examining 42 electrophoretically detectable loci in natural and transplanted charr populations from 15 localities in S Norway. The absolute values of Nei's genetic distance between morphotypes and populations are small (typically in the order of 0.001), and morphotype changes may occur without accompanying changes in frequencies of esterase alleles. Differentiation among localities explains far more of the total gene diversity than differences between morphotypes in the four cases of naturally occurring sympatric morphotypes examined. The data are consistent with an intraspecific population structuring based on locality, and the multiple species hypothesis is rejected.

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