• Open Access

Genetic monitoring and complex population dynamics: insights from a 12-year study of the Rio Grande silvery minnow


Megan J. Osborne, Department of Biology and Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA.
Tel.: +505 2773234;
fax: +505 2770304;
e-mail: mosborne@unm.edu


The endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow persists as a remnant population in a highly fragmented and regulated arid-land river system. The species is subject to dramatic annual fluctuations in density. Since 2003, the wild population has been supplemented by hatchery-reared fish. We report on a 12-year (1999–2010) monitoring study of genetic diversity and effective population size (Ne) of wild and hatchery stocks. Our goals were to evaluate how genetic metrics responded to changes in wild fish density and whether they corresponded to the number and levels of diversity of hatchery-reared repatriates. Genetic diversity and all measures of Ne in the wild population did not correlate with wild fish density until hatchery supplementation began in earnest. Estimates of variance and inbreeding effective size were not correlated. Our results suggest source–sink dynamics where captive stocks form a genetically diverse source and the wild population behaves as a sink. Nevertheless, overall genetic diversity of silvery minnow has been maintained over the last decade, and we attribute this to a well-designed and executed propagation management plan. When multiple factors like environmental fluctuation and hatchery supplementation act simultaneously on a population, interpretation of genetic monitoring data may be equally complex and require considerable ecological data.