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Genetic monitoring of wild and repatriated populations of endangered razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus, Catostomidae, Teleostei) in Lake Mohave, Arizona-Nevada


Thomas E. Dowling, Fax: 480-965-6899; E-mail:


The Native Fishes Work Group, formed in 1991, developed and implemented a protocol to enhance the dwindling razorback sucker population in Lake Mohave, Arizona-Nevada. This large, genetically diverse population is severely reduced in size as a result of recruitment failure associated with predation on larvae. To circumvent this problem, wild larvae are captured, reared in protective custody until they are large enough to escape predation, and then released back into the lake. We present results of a monitoring program designed to assess the effectiveness of the sampling design in transmitting the high genetic diversity found in wild adults. Variation in a fragment from the mitochondrial DNA gene cytochrome b was examined by analysis of single-stranded polymorphisms and direct sequencing. Samples were characterized from three life history stages. Characterization of wild adults verified previous results that identified considerable diversity and provided baseline data. Samples of larvae from several temporal collections from throughout the spawning season and four geographical areas were characterized for 7 years (1997–2003) to assess the transmission of genetic variation from wild adults to larvae. Several analyses identified significant differences among temporal collections, resulting from sampling errors associated with finite number of females spawning at a given time and place. Comparisons among areas and years failed to identify significant variation, indicating that pooled collections for each year possess the same levels and patterns of genetic variation. Examination of repatriates representing 11 years (1992–2002) also failed to identify significant differences among cohorts; however, some sample sizes were small and the amova may lack sufficient power to detect differences. Contrasts of wild adults, larvae, and repatriates identified statistically significant differences among collections within these three groups; however, levels of variation are small and not biologically meaningful. More importantly, this analysis failed to detect significant differences among adults, larvae, and repatriates indicating that the program has been achieving its goal of transmitting variation from adults through the larvae and into the repatriate population. The reproductive capability of repatriates has not been examined, so it is unknown if the program will maintain genetic variation found in the original adult population. This will be most easily achieved by periodic monitoring of genetic variation in larval samples. If levels of variation become reduced in repatriates, levels and patterns of diversity in larvae are also expected to become reduced, and deviations in estimates of genetic diversity may become larger and more frequent. If this is the case, intervention may be necessary to ensure that certain individuals are not over-represented in the repatriate population.

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