Genetic analysis of threatened Australian grayling Prototroctes maraena suggests recruitment to coastal rivers from an unstructured marine larval source population


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Population genetic variation of Australian grayling Prototroctes maraena was examined to determine whether the dispersal strategy of this amphidromous species favours retention of larvae and juveniles in close proximity to their natal river, or mixing of populations via marine dispersal. Variation in microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers was unstructured and differentiation was indistinguishable from zero across four coastal rivers spanning approximately one-quarter of the continental range of the species. This result indicates that the marine larval and juvenile phase probably facilitates extensive gene flow among coastal rivers and agrees with a previous analysis of otolith chemistry that suggested larvae probably move into the sea rather than remain in estuaries. It appears likely that the dispersal strategy of P. maraena would enable recolonization of rivers that experience localized extinction provided that connectivity between freshwater habitats and the sea is sufficient to permit migration and that enough source populations remain intact to support viability of the wider population.