Population genetic structure across dissolved oxygen regimes in an African cichlid fish


Erika Crispo, Fax: (514)398 5069; E-mail: erika.crispo@mail.mcgill.ca


Ecological isolation is a process whereby gene flow between selective environments is reduced due to selection against maladapted dispersers, migrant alleles, or hybrids. Although ecological isolation has been documented in several systems, gene flow can often be high among selective regimes, and more studies are thus needed to better understand the conditions under which ecological gradients or divergent selective regimes should influence population structure. We test for ecological isolation in a system in which high plasticity occurs with respect to traits that are adaptive in alternate forms under different environmental conditions. Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor victoriae is a widespread haplochromine cichlid fish in East Africa that exploits both normoxic (normal oxygen) rivers/lakes and hypoxic (low oxygen) swamps. Here, we examine population structure, using mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites, to determine if genetic divergence is significantly increased between dissolved oxygen regimes relative to within them, while controlling for geographical structure. Our results indicate that geographical separation influences population structure, while no effects of divergent selection with respect to oxygen regimes were detected. Specifically, we document (i) genetic clustering according to geographical region, but no clustering according to oxygen regime; (ii) higher genetic variation among than within regions, but no effect of oxygen regime on genetic variation; (iii) isolation by distance within one region; and (iv) decreasing genetic variability with increasing geographical distance from Lake Victoria. We speculate that plasticity may be facilitating gene flow between oxygen regimes in this system.