The determinant role of temporary proglacial drainages on the genetic structure of fishes


Bernard Angers, Fax: +00 1 (514) 343–2293; E-mail:


Phylogeographic studies have shed light on Pleistocene glaciations as a key factor in shaping present-day genetic structure of many organisms. In formerly glaciated regions, the combined action of several factors such as refuges origin, physiological capacities and demographic parameters have contributed importantly to this process but specifically for each species. Therefore, a fine-scale genetic structure is not expected to be similar for different species, unless it has been modulated by the action of a strong environmental pressure. The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of postglacial environment on the genetic structure of fishes. To achieve this objective, three fish species (northern pike, lake whitefish and yellow perch) commonly found in sympatry in Laurentian Shield lakes but displaying different ecological and physiological characteristics were analysed. The comparison of these unrelated species was performed to identify the factors determining the organization of their genetic structure. Populations of all species mostly originated from the Mississippian refuge. Low genetic differentiation was observed among populations but significant structures were detected for the three species. Despite marked differences among species, these structures presented common characteristics: a lack of congruence with drainage and a longitudinal organization. This suggested that the dispersion of species occurred independently, leading to a species-specific structure. However, the settling of populations appeared to be mediated by a dynamic system of proglacial meltwater streams associated to the glacial Lake Ojibway-Barlow, providing such similarities among species.