Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 213–223 | Cite as

Phylogeographic structure in the threatened Yarra pygmy perch Nannoperca obscura (Teleostei: Percichthyidae) has major implications for declining populations

  • Michael P. HammerEmail author
  • Peter J. Unmack
  • Mark Adams
  • Jerald B. Johnson
  • Keith F. Walker
Research Article


Molecular genetic information should be a pre-requisite when evaluating conservation priorities in highly structured species such as freshwater fishes. Nuclear (allozyme) and mitochondrial (cytochrome b) markers were used to investigate phylogeographic structure in the Yarra pygmy perch Nannoperca obscura (Klunzinger), a threatened freshwater fish endemic to mainland south-eastern Australia. Complementary patterns of strong, geographically defined sub-structure were observed including a major east–west divergence (at the Glenelg River), four diagnosable lineages, and statistically-significant differences between most populations. Accordingly, four Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) are defined and multiple, drainage-scale Management Units (MUs) suggested. Since Nannoperca obscura is a relatively poor disperser with no apparent gene flow between most populations, any regional extirpation would see the irreversible loss of genetic diversity. This is problematic, as several populations, most notably a recently discovered ESU in the Murray-Darling Basin, are feared extirpated through a combination of anthropogenic threats and severe drought. The potential loss of unique evolutionarily components within N. obscura soon after their discovery highlights with some urgency, the need to define and protect conservation units in highly modified freshwater habitats.


Molecular genetics ESU MU Conservation Freshwater Australia Cytochrome b Allozymes 



We are grateful to Mark Bachmann, Nick Evengelou, Craig Kemp, Glen Knowles, Tarmo Raadik, Troy Ristic, Rachael Remington, Scotte Wedderburn and Simon Westergaard for field assistance. Our thanks also to Tarmo Raadik (Arthur Rylah Institute, Melbourne) for assisting with collection localities. Financial support to MPH was provided by the Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology and an Australian Postgraduate Award. Permits for field collecting were obtained from PIRSA Fisheries (SA), Natural Resources and Environment and Primary Industries (Vic.), with approval of the Animal Ethics Committee at The University of Adelaide. Two reviewers provided valuable input to a draft version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10592_2009_24_MOESM1_ESM.doc (259 kb)
(DOC 259 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael P. Hammer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Peter J. Unmack
    • 3
  • Mark Adams
    • 2
  • Jerald B. Johnson
    • 3
  • Keith F. Walker
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Evolutionary Biology UnitSouth Australian MuseumAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Department of BiologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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