Conservation and management implications of fine-scale genetic structure of Gulf sturgeon in the Pascagoula River, Mississippi
The anadromous Gulf sturgeon occurs along the north central coast of the Gulf of Mexico and is federally listed as threatened. We analyzed fine-scale patterns of Gulf sturgeon population structure, focusing on the Pascagoula River drainage of Mississippi, in reference to movement patterns as determined via telemetry and capture data. We genotyped 361 Gulf sturgeon using eight microsatellite loci including samples from the Pascagoula, Pearl, Escambia, Yellow, Choctawhatchee, and Apalachicola river drainages. Pairwise F-ST estimates indicated that genetic structure occurs at least at the drainage level. The Pascagoula and Pearl rivers form a western group, demonstrating 100% bootstrap support for a division with drainages to the cast. Assignment tests detected non-natal genotypes occurring in all drainages. According to assignment tests, the Pascagoula supports an admixture of individuals, containing minimal influence from drainages to the east (2%) and substantial interaction with the Pearl River (14.1%). The occurrence of Pascagoula River fish in the Pearl was non-reciprocal, observed at 1.1%. After accounting for non-natal genetic diversity within the Pascagoula, there remained a disparity between a pooled Pascagoula group and the only documented spawning site within the drainage located in the Bouie River. We interpret this as an indication of a second genetic stock within the Pascagoula River drainage. Radio telemetry data suggest that spawning likely occurs in the Chickasawhay River, in areas isolated from the Bouie River spawning site by about 350 river kilometers. We emphasize the utility of integrating field and molecular approaches when delineating fine-scale patterns of population structure in anadromous fishes.