Phylogeography of isolated freshwater three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus populations in the Adriatic Sea basin


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Analyses of mitochondrial (mt) DNA and microsatellite variation were carried out to examine the relationships between 10 freshwater populations of three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. Partial sequences of the mtDNA control region and cytochrome b gene, in addition to 15 microsatellite loci, were used to analyse populations from four isolated river catchments. Results uncovered an Adriatic lineage that was clearly divergent from the European lineage, and confirmed that the most divergent and ancient populations are located within the Adriatic lineage as compared with other European populations. Two northern Adriatic populations formed independent clades within the European mitochondrial lineage, suggesting different colonization histories of the different Adriatic populations. Nuclear marker analyses also indicated deep divergence between Adriatic and European populations, albeit with some discordance between the mtDNA phylogeny of the northern Adriatic populations, further highlighting the strong differentiation among the Adriatic populations. The southern populations within the Adriatic lineage were further organized into distinct clades corresponding to respective river catchments and sub-clades corresponding to river tributaries, reflecting a high degree of population structuring within a small geographic region, concurrent with suggestions of existence of several microrefugia within the Balkan Peninsula. The highly divergent clades and haplotypes unique to the southern Adriatic populations further suggest, in accordance with an earlier, more limited survey, that southern Adriatic populations represent an important reservoir for ancient genetic diversity of G. aculeatus.