Conservation Genetics

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1281–1298 | Cite as

Genetic diversity and structure of two hybridizing anadromous fishes (Alosa pseudoharengus, Alosa aestivalis) across the northern portion of their ranges

  • Meghan C. McBrideEmail author
  • Theodore V. Willis
  • Rod G. Bradford
  • Paul Bentzen
Research Article


Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis), also known collectively as either river herring or gaspereau, are anadromous clupeid fishes that display spatiotemporal overlap during riverine spawning migrations. Both species have experienced severe population declines within portions of their ranges. Evidence that they home to their natal rivers to spawn suggests the likelihood of ecologically significant population structure, yet this hypothesis has not been rigorously tested. We examined genetic diversity, differentiation and population structure in 34 alewife and four blueback herring populations spanning a 2,500 km portion of their northern range, using 14 microsatellite loci. Significant differentiation was detected among most rivers, and eight genetically defined alewife population clusters that largely corresponded to hydrographic regions were identified. Similar population structure was seen for blueback herring. Genetic isolation by distance was not significant among alewife populations in regions that have been historically influenced by dams, and/or stock transfers, but was highly significant in two regions that have not been subject to these influences. Genetic differentiation of alewife populations was strongest in the Bay of Fundy. Bottleneck tests revealed evidence of demographic bottlenecks in all of the alewife populations. Lastly, our results indicated that hybridization between alewife and blueback herring is common.


Population structure Genetic differentiation River herring Gaspereau Hybridization Population bottlenecks 



This research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant to P. Bentzen and Department of Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program Grant (No. 501818G257), Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service Grant, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (No. NSN-60365), National Science Foundation Grant (No. EPS-0904155) to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine. We thank Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, Sackville River Association, Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance, Tusket Gaspereau Dip Netters Association, commercial gaspereau fishers, Parks Canada, Department of Fisheries and Ocean and Maine Department of Marine Resources for their cooperation and aid in obtaining samples. Additionally, we thank J. Rivard, C. Glibbery, D. Keith, P. Debes, G. McCracken and E. MacLeod for their assistance in the field and I. Paterson in the lab.

Supplementary material

10592_2014_617_MOESM1_ESM.docx (517 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 517 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meghan C. McBride
    • 1
    Email author
  • Theodore V. Willis
    • 2
  • Rod G. Bradford
    • 3
  • Paul Bentzen
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Gene Probe Laboratory, Biology DepartmentDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Environmental ScienceUniversity of Southern MaineGorhamUSA
  3. 3.Fisheries and Oceans CanadaBedford Institute of OceanographyDartmouthCanada

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