Substantial genetic differentiation is frequently observed among populations of cyclically parthenogenetic zooplankton despite their high dispersal capabilities and potential for gene flow. Local adaptation has been invoked to explain population genetic differentiation despite high dispersal, but several neutral models that account for basic life history features also predict high genetic differentiation. Here, we study genetic differentiation among four populations of Daphnia pulex in east central Illinois. As with other studies of Daphnia, we demonstrate substantial population genetic differentiation despite close geographic proximity (<50 km; mean θ = 0.22). However, we explicitly tested and failed to find evidence for, the hypothesis that local adaptation to food resources occurs in these populations. Recognizing that local adaptation can occur in traits unrelated to resources, we estimated contemporary migration rates (m) and tested for admixture to evaluate the hypothesis that observed genetic differentiation is consistent with local adaptation to other untested ecological factors. Using Bayesian assignment methods, we detected migrants in three of the four study populations including substantial evidence for successful reproduction by immigrants in one pond, allowing us to reject the hypothesis that local adaptation limits gene flow for at least this population. Thus, we suggest that local adaptation does not explain genetic differentiation among these Daphnia populations and that other factors related to extinction/colonization dynamics, a long approach to equilibrium FST or substantial genetic drift due to a low number of individuals hatching from the egg bank each season may explain genetic differentiation.
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