Molecular genetic examination of the polymorphic Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus of Thingvallavatn, Iceland


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Thingvallavatn, Iceland contains two sympatric morphotypes (benthic and limnetic) of Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus. Each morphotype is composed of two morphs and these differ markedly in ecology, behaviour and life history. We used molecular genetic approaches to test whether (i) genetic heterogeneity exists among morphs and (ii) if morphs arose in allopatry and came into secondary contact or arose sympatrically within the lake through genetic segregation and/or phenotypic plasticity. Direct sequencing of 275 bp of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region, mtDNA restriction fragment length polymorphisms and single locus minisatellite analyses detected insufficient variation to test our hypotheses. Analysis of multilocus minisatellite band sharing detected no significant differences between morphs within the same morphotype. However, significant differences among morphs belonging to different morphotypes suggest some genetic heterogeneity in Thingvallavatn charr. Limnetic charr from Thingvallavatn were more similar to sympatric benthic charr than to allopatric limnetics from two other Icelandic lakes. This suggests that the Thingvallavatn morphs arose sympatrically within the lake rather than in allopatry followed by secondary contact.