Microsatellite analysis of the phylogeography, Pleistocene history and secondary contact hypotheses for the killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus


David D. Duvernell, Fax: 618-650-3174; E-mail: dduvern@siue.edu.


The mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus, exhibits extensive latitudinal clinal variation in a number of physiological and biochemical traits, coupled with phylogeographical patterns at mitochondrial and nuclear DNA loci that suggest a complicated history of spatially variable selection and secondary intergradation. This species continues to serve as a model for understanding local and regional adaptation to variable environments. Resolving the influences of historical processes on the distribution of genetic variation within and among extant populations of F. heteroclitus is crucial to a better understanding of how populations evolve in the context of contemporary environments. In this study, we analysed geographical patterns of genetic variation at eight microsatellite loci among 15 populations of F. heteroclitus distributed throughout the North American range of the species from Nova Scotia to Georgia. Genetic variation in Northern populations was lower than in Southern populations and was strongly correlated with latitude throughout the species range. The most common Northern alleles at all eight loci exhibited concordant latitudinal clinal patterns, and the existence of an abrupt transition zone in allele frequencies between Northern and Southern populations was similar to that observed for mitochondrial DNA and allozyme loci. A significant pattern of isolation by distance was observed both within and between northern and southern regions. This pattern was unexpected, particularly for northern populations, given the recent colonization history of post-Pleistocene habitats, and was inconsistent with either a recent northward population expansion or a geographically restricted northern Pleistocene refugium. The data provided no evidence for recent population bottlenecks, and estimates of historical effective population sizes suggest that post-Pleistocene populations have been large throughout the species distribution. These results suggest that F. heteroclitus was broadly distributed throughout most of its current range during the last glacial event and that the abrupt transition in allele frequencies that separate Northern and Southern populations may reflect regional disequilibrium conditions associated with the post-Pleistocene colonization history of habitats in that region.