, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 795-808,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 19 Mar 2013

Monitoring reveals two genetically distinct brown trout populations remaining in stable sympatry over 20 years in tiny mountain lakes


Detecting population subdivision when apparent barriers to gene flow are lacking is important in evolutionary and conservation biology. Recent research indicates that intraspecific population complexity can be crucial for maintaining a species′ evolutionary potential, productivity, and ecological role. We monitored the genetic relationships at 14 allozyme loci among ~4,000 brown trout (Salmo trutta) collected during 19 years from two small interconnected mountain lakes (0.10 and 0.17 km2, respectively) in central Sweden. There were no allele frequency differences between the lakes. However, heterozygote deficiencies within lakes became obvious after a few years of monitoring. Detailed analyses were then carried out without a priori grouping of samples, revealing unexpected differentiation patterns: (i) the same two genetically distinct (F ST ≥ 0.10) populations occur sympatrically at about equal frequencies within both lakes, (ii) the genetic subdivision is not coupled with apparent phenotypical dichotomies, (iii) this cryptic structure remains stable over the two decades monitored, and (iv) the point estimates of effective population size are c. 120 and 190, respectively, indicating that genetic drift is important in this system. A subsample of 382 fish was also analyzed for seven microsatellites. The genetic pattern does not follow that of the allozymes, and in this subsample the presence of multiple populations would have gone undetected if only scoring microsatellites. Sympatric populations may be more common than anticipated, but difficult to detect when individuals cannot be grouped appropriately, or when markers or sample sizes are insufficient to provide adequate statistical power with approaches not requiring prior grouping.