, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp 673-683

Mitochondrial DNA variation, effective female population size and population history of the endangered Chinese sturgeon, Acipenser sinensis

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Abstract

The anadromous Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis), mainly endemic to the Yangtze River in China, is an endangered fish species. The natural population has declined since the Gezhouba Dam blocked its migratory route to the spawning grounds in 1981. In the near future, the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, may further impact this species by altering the water flow of the Yangtze River. Little is currently known about the population genetic structure of the Chinese sturgeon. In this study, DNA sequence data were determined from the control region (D-loop) of the mitochondrial genome of adult sturgeons (n = 106) that were collected between 1995–2000. The molecular data were used to investigate genetic variation, effective female population size and population history of the Chinese sturgeon in the Yangtze River. Our results indicate that the reduction in abundance did not change genetic variation of the Chinese sturgeon, and that the population underwent an expansion in the past. AMOVA analysis indicated that 98.7% of the genetic variability occurred within each year's spawning populations, the year of collection had little influence on the diversity of annual temporary samples. The relative large effective female population size (N ef) indicates that good potential exists for the recovery of this species in the future. Strikingly, the ratio of N ef to the census female population size (N f) is unusually high (0.77–0.93). This may be the result of a current bottleneck in the population of the Chinese sturgeon that is likely caused by human intervention.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.