Conservation Genetics

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 845–857 | Cite as

Comparative analysis of riverscape genetic structure in rare, threatened and common freshwater mussels

  • Heather S. Galbraith
  • David T. Zanatta
  • Chris C. Wilson
Research Article


Freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) are highly imperiled with many species on the verge of local extirpation or global extinction. This study investigates patterns of genetic structure and diversity in six species of freshwater mussels in the central Great Lakes region of Ontario, Canada. These species vary in their conservation status (endangered to not considered at risk), life history strategy, and dispersal capabilities. Evidence of historical genetic connectivity within rivers was ubiquitous across species and may reflect dispersal abilities of host fish. There was little to no signature of recent disturbance events or bottlenecks, even in endangered species, likely as a function of mussel longevity and historical population sizes (i.e., insufficient time for genetic drift to be detectable). Genetic structure was largely at the watershed scale suggesting that population augmentation via translocation within rivers may be a useful conservation tool if needed, while minimizing genetic risks to recipient sites. Recent interest in population augmentation via translocation and propagation may rely on these results to inform management of unionids in the Great Lakes region.


Unionid mussels Scale Multi-species comparison Conservation genetics 



This work was made possible through funding from the Endangered Species Recovery Fund of World Wildlife Fund Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Friedrich Fischer, Ryan and Kirsty Hill, Anne Kidd, Phillip Mathias, Caleigh Smith, Daniel Spooner, and Kristyne Wozney provided valuable assistance with both field and laboratory work. This article is contribution #43 of the Central Michigan University Institute for Great Lakes Research. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

10592_2015_705_MOESM1_ESM.docx (88 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 88 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather S. Galbraith
    • 1
    • 4
  • David T. Zanatta
    • 2
  • Chris C. Wilson
    • 3
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Biology Department, Institute for Great Lakes ResearchCentral Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA
  3. 3.Aquatic Research Section, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and ForestryTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  4. 4.Northern Appalachian Research LaboratoryUSGS Leetown Science CenterWellsboroUSA

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