Positive relationships between genetic diversity and abundance in fishes


Megan R. McCusker, Fax: (416) 287 7676; E-mail: mmccusker@utsc.utoronto.ca


Molecular markers, such as mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite loci, are widely studied to assess population genetics and phylogeography; however, the selective neutrality of these markers is increasingly being questioned. Given the importance of molecular markers in fisheries science and conservation, we evaluated the neutrality of both mtDNA and microsatellite loci through their associations with population size. We surveyed mtDNA and microsatellite data from the primary literature and determined whether genetic diversity increased with abundance across a total of 105 marine and freshwater fishes, with both global fisheries catch data and body size as proxies for abundance (with an additional 57 species for which only body size data were assessed). We found that microsatellite data generally yielded higher associations with abundance than mtDNA data, and within mtDNA analyses, number of haplotypes and haplotype diversity were more strongly associated with abundance than nucleotide diversity, particularly for freshwater fishes. We compared genetic diversity between freshwater and marine fishes and found that marine fishes had higher values of all measures of genetic diversity than freshwater fishes. Results for both mtDNA and microsatellites generally conformed to neutral expectations, although weaker relationships were often found between mtDNA nucleotide diversity and ‘abundance’ compared to any other genetic statistic. We speculate that this is because of historical events unrelated to natural selection, although a role for selection cannot be ruled out.