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Assessing natural and disturbed population structure in European grayling Thymallus thymallus: melding phylogeographic, population genetic and jurisdictional perspectives for conservation planning

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Natural and human‐mediated population structure of European grayling Thymallus thymallus was assessed in primarily Austrian reaches of the Danube River catchment. Data on phylogeographic structure based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) were combined with variation found across 13 microsatellite loci to assess introgression stemming from stocking activities. Populations north of the Alps generally showed no signs of long‐term introgression from allochthonous stocks, although one population comprised two distinct genotypic groups, one of which may stem from recently stocked material. South of the Alps, levels of introgression with stocks from the north were extensive and only one of six populations is believed to represent a reference state. Allelic diversity and expected heterozygosity were positively correlated with mtDNA admixture supporting more recent introgression and that there is little or no reproductive barrier between these two major lineages north and south of the Alps. A third unrelated mtDNA lineage is described from the Lafnitz, a tributary of the Raab drainage. The high lineage diversity in the upper Austrian Danube is not concordant with an existing model of T. thymallus evolutionarily significant units in Europe. Caveats in naming such units or following a strict hierarchical conservation unit structure for broadly distributed species with complex phylogeographic distributions stretching over various jurisdictions are discussed. The necessity of using both phylogeographic and population genetic approaches in evaluating the history and conservation value of populations in a conservation context is additionally highlighted.

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Karl-Franzens Universität Graz, Institut für Zoologie, Universitätsplatz 2, A-8010 Graz, Austria 2: University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department of Animal Science, Groblje 3, 1230 Domžale, Slovenia

Publication date: February 1, 2013


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