Genetic signature of recent glaciation on populations of a near-shore marine fish species (Syngnathus leptorhynchus)


  • A. B. WILSON

    1. Genetics and Evolution, Conservation Biology Division, Northwest Fisheries Sciences Center, 2725 Montlake Blvd. E., Seattle, WA 98112, USA
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Tony Wilson, Present address: Zoological Museum, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057, Zurich, Switzerland. Fax: 41 44 635 4780; E-mail:


Continental glaciation has played a major role in shaping the present-day phylogeography of freshwater and terrestrial species in the Northern Hemisphere. Recent work suggests that coastal glaciation during ice ages may have also had a significant impact on marine species. The bay pipefish, Syngnathus leptorhynchus, is a near-shore Pacific coast fish species with an exceptionally wide latitudinal distribution, ranging from Bahia Santa Maria, Baja California to Prince William Sound, Alaska. Survey data indicate that S. leptorhynchus is experiencing a range expansion at the northern limit of its range, consistent with colonization from southern populations. The present study uses six novel microsatellite markers and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence data to study the present-day population genetic structure of four coastal populations of S. leptorhynchus. Deficits in mtDNA and nuclear DNA diversity in northern populations from regions glaciated during the last glacial maximum (LGM) [c. 18 000 years before present (bp)] suggest that these populations were effected by glacial events. Direct estimates of population divergence times derived from both isolation and isolation-with-migration models of evolution are also consistent with a postglacial phylogenetic history of populations north of the LGM. Sequence data further indicate that a population at the southern end of the species range has been separated from the three northern populations since long before the last interglacial event (c. 130 000 years bp), suggesting that topographical features along the Pacific coast may maintain population separation in regions unimpacted by coastal glaciation.