Ecological and Landscape Effects On Genetic Distance In an Assemblage of Headwater Fishes

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Environmental divergence along hierarchically structured longitudinal gradients may constitute barriers to gene flow in river networks for headwater specialised species. While known, this phenomenon has not been well studied, especially with regard to degree of headwater specialisation. We examined six headwater species that differ in habitat specialisation to assess whether patterns of differentiation vary according to geographic or environmental distance. We also identified regional environmental or anthropogenically induced fragmentation effects by comparing within-drainage patterns of genetic distance across replicate watersheds. We used a comparative modelling framework to determine whether isolation by distance or isolation by resistance of large river habitats was a better predictor of genetic distance across species. The influence of reservoir presence and regional network characteristics that may influence the hydrology and size of large river habitats were also assessed. Resistance effects from large rivers were closely related to headwater specialisation, with increased specialisation leading to increased resistance and loss of drainagewide population connectivity. These results affirm that dendritic networks naturally fragment headwater specialised species. Further isolation from anthropogenic fragmentation was detected in two of the six drainages, indicating interactions with system-specific conditions. Landscape variables related to the hydrology of large rivers also affected genetic distance in predicted ways, supporting the importance of large rivers in genetically structuring headwater species in drainage networks.

Publication Title

Ecology of Freshwater Fish





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