Conservation Genetics

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 823–835 | Cite as

Contemporary gene flow between “paired” silver (Ichthyomyzon unicuspis) and northern brook (I. fossor) lampreys: implications for conservation

  • Margaret F. Docker
  • Nicholas E. Mandrak
  • Daniel D. Heath
Research Article


In most lamprey genera, “paired” species exist in which the larvae are morphologically similar or indistinguishable but, following metamorphosis, one species becomes parasitic while the other bypasses the adult feeding phase and rapidly becomes sexually mature. Since DNA barcoding and similar studies using short segments of the mitochondrial genome do not provide sufficient resolution to distinguish between recent divergence and a lack thereof, the current study examined the relationship between the parasitic silver lamprey (Ichthyomyzon unicuspis) and nonparasitic northern brook lamprey (I. fossor) using up to 10,230 bp from the mitochondrial genome to make phylogenetic inferences and mitochondrial restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and microsatellite markers to test for significant differences in allele frequencies. We found that silver and northern brook lampreys are not reciprocally monophyletic; two lineages were observed but each occurred within both species. There also were no significant range-wide differences in RFLP haplotype or microsatellite allele frequencies between the species, nor were there significant differences where they occurred sympatrically within the Lake Huron basin. Significant genetic differentiation was found only within the Lake Michigan basin where the results were potentially confounded by geographic separation. Our results thus support suggestions that silver and northern brook lampreys represent ecotypes of a single species since, where they are sympatric, they appear to be experiencing ongoing gene flow. However, alternative life history strategies can be important for a species’ long-term persistence, and critical data are needed to decide whether these two feeding types should be managed as a single unit.


Brook lampreys Conservation DNA barcode Ecotypes Microsatellites Species pairs 



We thank Fraser Neave (Sea Lamprey Control Centre, Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Wayne Bouffard (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Doug Carlson (N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation), Mary Henson and Shawn Nowicki (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marquette MI), and other DFO and USFWS personnel for sample collections. We are also indebted to Kim Scribner and Kristi Filcek for providing DNA from samples used in their previous microsatellite publication for use as standards, to Rebecca Provost for technical assistance with the mitochondrial RFLP assays, and to David Boguski and Craig McFarlane for help with data analysis and figures. Funding for this project was provided by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (MFD, NEM, and DDH), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (MFD, DDH), and the Species at Risk Program of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (NEM).

Supplementary material

10592_2012_332_MOESM1_ESM.doc (196 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 196 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret F. Docker
    • 1
  • Nicholas E. Mandrak
    • 2
  • Daniel D. Heath
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic SciencesFisheries and Oceans CanadaBurlingtonCanada
  3. 3.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research & Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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