Theory predicts that genetic diversity and genetic differentiation may strongly vary among populations of the same species depending on population turnover and local population sizes. Yet, despite the importance of these predictions for evolutionary and conservation issues, empirical studies comparing high-turnover and low-turnover populations of the same species are scarce. In this study, we used Daphnia magna, a freshwater crustacean, as a model organism for such a comparison. In the southern/central part of its range, D. magna inhabits medium-sized, stable ponds, whereas in the north, it occurs in small rock pools with strong population turnover. We found that these northern populations have a significantly lower genetic diversity and higher genetic differentiation compared to the southern/central populations. Total genetic diversity across populations was only about half and average within-population diversity only about a third of that in southern/central populations. Moreover, an average southern population contains more genetic diversity than the whole metapopulation system in the north. We based our analyses both on silent sites and microsatellites. The similarity of our results despite the contrasting mutation rates of these markers suggests that the differences are caused by contemporary rather than by historical processes. Our findings show that variation in population turnover and population size may have a major impact on the genetic diversity and differentiation of populations, and hence may lead to differences in evolutionary processes like local adaptation, hybrid vigour and breeding system evolution in different parts of a species range.
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