Conservation Genetics

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 1379–1392 | Cite as

Role of drainage and barriers in the genetic structuring of a tessellated darter population

  • Peter EuclideEmail author
  • J. Ellen Marsden
Research Article


While population genetic structuring is easily identified, the causes of the structure can be difficult to determine. Habitat fragmentation in aquatic systems has often been identified as a major source of increased population structure and decreased genetic diversity in fish, including benthic resident species such as darters. However, these findings are often not replicated across natural and manmade barriers and come from endangered or threatened populations where the genetic structure is likely already compromised due to small population size. To evaluate the factors involved in structuring a healthy darter population, we genotyped 506 tessellated darters from 18 sites in three different river drainages and one large lake. Sites were all in the same watershed but separated from one another by one or more of three different types of barriers: dams, natural fall lines and causeways. We found that while diversity and allele frequency varied largely by drainage, within drainage variation was minimal even across multiple barriers. No single barrier type appeared to be more formidable than any other. Our results indicate that healthy populations of darters may naturally be structured by drainage, but likely disperse across barriers enough to retain drainage-wide homogeneity.


Habitat fragmentation Microsatellite Genetic diversity Dams Streams 



We thank Dr. Matthew Wargo and Dr. Steven Keller for the use of their laboratories for processing samples. We also would like to thank our field technician, Bethany Alger, and the captain Steve Cluett and crew, Brad Roy for help collecting darter samples. Special thanks to Alan Howard, University of Vermont for help with statistical support. Finally, we would like to thank anonymous reviewers whose suggestions helped to improve the final manuscript. This study was supported by funds made available by Senator Patrick Leahy through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the USGS Vermont Water Resources and Lakes Study Center.

Supplementary material

10592_2018_1107_MOESM1_ESM.docx (7.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 7558 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Marsh Life Science BuildingUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Rubenstein Ecosystem Science LaboratoryUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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