Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 279–292

Historical and recent genetic bottlenecks in European grayling, Thymallus thymallus


  • Akarapong Swatdipong
    • Division of Genetics and Physiology, Department of Biology (Vesilinnantie 5)University of Turku
  • Craig R. Primmer
    • Division of Genetics and Physiology, Department of Biology (Vesilinnantie 5)University of Turku
    • Division of Genetics and Physiology, Department of Biology (Vesilinnantie 5)University of Turku
    • Department of Aquaculture, Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal ScienceEstonian University of Life Sciences
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10592-009-0031-x

Cite this article as:
Swatdipong, A., Primmer, C.R. & Vasemägi, A. Conserv Genet (2010) 11: 279. doi:10.1007/s10592-009-0031-x


Sharp declines in population size, known as genetic bottlenecks, increase the level of inbreeding and reduce genetic diversity threatening population sustainability in both short- and long-term. We evaluated the presence, severity and approximate time of bottlenecks in 34 European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) populations covering the majority of the species distribution using microsatellite markers. We identified footprints of population decline in all grayling populations using the M ratio test. In contrast to earlier simulation studies assuming isolated populations, forward simulations allowing low levels of migration demonstrated that bottleneck footprints measured using the M ratio can persist within small populations much longer (up to thousands of generations) than previously anticipated. Using a coalescence approach, the beginning of population reduction was dated back to 1,000–10,000 years ago which suggests that the extremely low M ratio in European grayling is most likely caused by the last glaciation and subsequent post-glacial recolonization processes. In contrast to the M ratio, two alternative methods for bottleneck detection identified more recent bottlenecks in six populations and thus, from a conservation perspective, these populations warrant future monitoring. Based on a single time-point analysis using approximate Bayesian computation methodology, all grayling populations exhibited very small effective population sizes with the majority of Ne estimates below 50. Taken together, our results demonstrate the predominate role of genetic drift in European grayling populations in the short term but also emphasize the importance of gene flow counteracting the effects of genetic drift and loss of variation over longer evolutionary timescales.


Thymallus thymallusGenetic bottleneckM ratioHeterozygosity excess testMode-shift testMicrosatellite

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009