, Volume 691, Issue 1, pp 225-237
Date: 21 Mar 2012

Genetic variation of European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) populations in the Western Balkans

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Abstract

In order to elucidate genetic composition of European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) populations in the Western Balkans, the partial mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region was sequenced and 12 microsatellite loci genotyped in 14 populations originating from tributaries of the Adriatic and Danube drainages. Eleven mtDNA haplotypes were found, one confined to the Adriatic clade, one to the Alpine group and the rest to the ‘Balkan’ grayling phylogenetic clade. Haplotypes from the Balkan clade were confined to the Danube drainage and constituted two groups: northern group with haplotypes found in the Slovenian part of the Danube drainage, and southern group, consisting from Bosnia–Herzegovina and Montenegro. Substantial genetic distance between northern and southern groups of haplotypes (0.75–1.8%) and well supported divisions within the northern group indicate very structured grayling population within the studied Danube basin that most probably did not evolve due to vicariance but rather as a consequence of multiple colonization waves that might have occurred during the Pleistocene. Furthermore, genetic distance of ~4% between Adriatic and Danube populations’ haplotypes, suggest that their separation occurred in mid-Pliocene. These findings imply a complex colonization pattern of the Western Balkans drainages. Microsatellite data also confirm high genetic diversity in Western Balkans populations of grayling (on average 7.5 alleles per microsatellite locus and H exp 0.58). Limited stocking activities were detected based on microsatellites and mtDNA data. Regarding current knowledge of grayling phylogeography appropriate management strategies were proposed to preserve unique, autochthonous grayling populations in Western Balkan.

Handling editor: Christian Sturmbauer