Conservation Genetics

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 1009–1022 | Cite as

Increased habitat fragmentation leads to isolation among and low genetic diversity within populations of the imperiled Kentucky Arrow Darter (Etheostoma sagitta spilotum)

  • Rebecca E. BlantonEmail author
  • Mollie F. Cashner
  • Matthew R. Thomas
  • Stephanie L. Brandt
  • Michael A. Floyd
Research Article


The Kentucky Arrow Darter (Etheostoma sagitta spilotum) is federally listed as threatened and known only from five tributary systems in the Kentucky River system, Kentucky, USA. Recent surveys revealed considerable population decline, with individuals detected in only 45% of known historical localities. Impacts of these declines on the genetic structure of E. s. spilotum may be exacerbated by limited dispersal capabilities and small initial population size resulting in high levels of isolation among extant populations. Long standing genetic isolation may also be evident in contemporary genetic signatures; populations that have undergone historic isolation may be prime candidates for intensive conservation efforts. To address contemporary and historic genetic isolation, we generated genotypic (11 microsatellite loci) and mtDNA sequence (ND2 gene) data from multiple locations spanning the taxon’s range. We recovered seven haplotypes with low divergence levels, shared among and within multiple Kentucky River tributary systems, indicating absence of long-standing isolation among localities examined. In contrast, microsatellite data suggested all nine populations are functionally isolated, with little to no admixture among populations, even among those within the same tributary system. The drastic decline of E. s. spilotum populations has likely combined with limited dispersal, resulting in extensive contemporary genetic isolation among extant populations. Conservation management plans to enhance stability and maintain survivability of E. s. spilotum must address the severe genetic isolation identified here and work towards increasing gene flow among extant populations.


Fish Allelic diversity Effective population size Population structure Microsatellites Phylogeography 



Funding and resources provided through the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Section 6 funding, Austin Peay State University (APSU), and the APSU Center of Excellence for Field Biology. We thank S. Carr (KDFWR) for invaluable assistance facilitating contracts and other technical issues throughout the project; J. Johansen (TTU, APSU) for maps and georeferencing; S. Woltmann and (APSU) J. Johansen for helpful discussion related to data analyses and interpretation and comments on the manuscript; and E. Bloom (APSU), M. Lewis (APSU), K. Pilcher (APSU), and J. Johansen for lab assistance. S. Harrel (EKU) assisted in tissue collections. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Supplementary material

10592_2019_1188_MOESM1_ESM.tif (114.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (TIFF 117535 kb). Online Resource 1. Geographic distribution of Kentucky Arrow Darter (KAD), Etheostoma sagitta spilotum. Circles represent all historical localities known for the species; colors reflect presence (green) or absence (red) at a site as a result of recent survey efforts (2007-2013) to document occurrence (modified from USFWS 2013). Publicly owned lands are shown to demonstrate E. s. spilotum occurrence is now primarily restricted to these areas where mining activities, for example, have been less pervasive
10592_2019_1188_MOESM2_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 16 kb). Online Resource 2.. Locality information for populations examined in assessments of genetic diversity of the Kentucky Arrow Darter, Etheostoma sagitta spilotum. All sites were located in the Kentucky River system of Kentucky (Fig. 1). The population identifier (Pop. ID) number corresponds to those used throughout the document. SFK = South Fork Kentucky River; MFK = Middle Fork Kentucky River; NFK = North Fork Kentucky River
10592_2019_1188_MOESM3_ESM.eps (10.9 mb)
Supplementary material 3 (EPS 11161 kb). Online Resource 3. Population number (K) inferred from STRUCTURE analysis of Kentucky Arrow Darter, Etheostoma sagitta spilotum: (A) mean Log Likelihood; and (B) ΔK estimates. Both recover nine populations


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center of Excellence for Field Biology, Austin Peay State UniversityClarksvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyAustin Peay State UniversityClarksvilleUSA
  3. 3.Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife ResourcesFrankfortUSA
  4. 4.United States Fish and Wildlife ServiceFrankfortUSA

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