Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 243–255 | Cite as

Genetic structure and gene flow in an endangered native tilapia fish (Oreochromis esculentus) compared to invasive Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in Yala swamp, East Africa

  • Paul O. Angienda
  • Hyuk Je Lee
  • Kathryn R. Elmer
  • Romulus Abila
  • Eliud N. Waindi
  • Axel MeyerEmail author
Research Article


The introduction of invasive Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and the rapacious predator Nile perch (Lates niloticus), into Lake Victoria resulted in a decline in population sizes, genetic diversity and even extirpation of native species which were previously the mainstay of local fisheries. However, remnant populations of native fish species, including tilapia, still persist in satellite lakes around Lake Victoria where they may coexist with O. niloticus. In this study we assessed population genetic structure, diversity, and integrity of the native critically endangered Singidia tilapia (O. esculentus) in its refugial populations in the Yala swamp, Kenya, and contrasted this diversity with populations of the invasive tilapia O. niloticus in satellite lakes (Kanyaboli, Namboyo and Sare) and Lake Victoria. Based on mtDNA control region sequences and eight nuclear microsatellite loci, we did not detect any mtDNA introgression between the native and the invasive species in Lakes Kanyaboli and Namboyo, but did find low levels of nuclear admixture, primarily from O. niloticus to O. esculentus. Some genetic signal of O. esculentus in O. niloticus was found in Lake Sare, where O. esculentus is not found, suggesting it has recently been extirpated by the O. niloticus invasion. In both species, populations in the satellite lakes are significantly genetically isolated from each other, with private mtDNA haplotypes and microsatellite alleles. For O. niloticus, genetic diversity in satellite lakes was similar to that found in Lake Victoria. Our data imply a low frequency of immigration exchange between the two populations of O. esculentus and we suggest that the populations of this endangered species and important fisheries resource should be conserved separately in Lakes Kanyaboli and Namboyo and with high priority.


Admixture Lake Victoria basin Nile tilapia Population genetic structure Singidia tilapia Yala swamp 



This research was funded by a German Academic Exchange Programme (DAAD) PhD scholarship to POA, an NSERC fellowship to KRE, and DFG grants to AM. We also thank the Maseno University School of Graduate Studies (SGS) for financial assistance. Much gratitude to Anton Omondi and Ben Aketch for assistance both in field and lab work and E. Hespeler for assistance in the lab.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul O. Angienda
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hyuk Je Lee
    • 2
  • Kathryn R. Elmer
    • 2
  • Romulus Abila
    • 3
  • Eliud N. Waindi
    • 1
  • Axel Meyer
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyMaseno UniversityMasenoKenya
  2. 2.Lehrstuhl für Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie, Department of BiologyUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  3. 3.Department of Hydrology and Water Resources ManagementSouth Eastern University CollegeKituiKenya

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