Comparative Genetic Diversity, Population Structure, and Adaptations of Walleye and Yellow Perch Across North America

  • Carol A. Stepien
  • Osvaldo J. Sepulveda-Villet
  • Amanda E. Haponski


The yellow perch Perca flavescens and the walleye Sander vitreus are native North American percid fishes, which have considerable fishery and ecological importance across their wide geographic ranges. Over the past century, they were stocked into new habitats, often with relative disregard for conserving local genetic adaptations. This chapter focuses on their comparative population structure and genetic diversity in relationship to historical patterns, habitat connectivity, dispersal ability, distributional abundances, and reproductive behavior. Both species possess considerable genetic structure across their native ranges, exhibiting similar patterning of discontinuities among geographic regions. The two species significantly differ in levels of genetic diversity, with walleye populations possessing overall higher genetic variability than yellow perch. Genetic divergence patterns follow the opposite trend, with more pronounced differences occurring among closely spaced spawning aggregations of yellow perch than walleye. Results reveal broad-scale correspondence to isolation by geographic distance, however, their fine-scale population structures show less relationship, often with pronounced genetic differences among some nearby reproductive groups. Genetic composition of spawning groups is stable from year to year in walleye, according to two decades of data, and is less consistent in yellow perch. These patterns appear to reflect fundamental behavioral differences between the two species.


Yellow perch Walleye Genetic diversity Adaptations Geographical distribution 



This is publication #2015-07 from the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Research Center. We thank Timothy Sullivan, who completed his master’s degree in 2013 from our Great Lakes Genetics Laboratory under CAS for supplying his latest results. Support for our research reported here came from the National Science Foundation NSF GK-12 DGE#0742395, the USEPA #CR-83281401-0, NOAA Ohio Sea Grant R/LR-013, and USDA ARS 3655-31000-020-00D funded to CAS. We greatly appreciate samples supplied by the USGS (Bruce Manny, Patrick Kocovsky, Wendylee Stott, Edward Roseman, Jeffrey Williamson), Ohio DNR (Kevin Kayle, Cary Knight, Roger Knight, Matthew Turner, Jeffrey Tyson, Christopher Vandergoot), Michigan DNR (David Clapp, Robert Haas, Michael Thomas), New York Department of Environmental Conservation (Brian Beckwith, Donald Einhouse), Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Roger Kenyon), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Christopher Wilson, Timothy Johnson), and from various colleagues including Louis Bernatchez, Neil Billington, Eric Hallerman, Wolfgang Jansen, Brandon Kulik, Christine Mayer, Ellen Marsden, Douglas Nelson, Alex Parker, Webb Pearsall, Lars Rudstam, Wayne Schaefer, Roy Stein, and Matthew White. The manuscript benefitted from careful review by Patrick Kocovsky and Edward Roseman.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol A. Stepien
    • 1
    • 2
  • Osvaldo J. Sepulveda-Villet
    • 1
    • 3
  • Amanda E. Haponski
    • 1
  1. 1.Great Lakes Genetics and Genomics Laboratory, Lake Erie Center and Department of Environmental SciencesThe University of ToledoToledoUSA
  2. 2.Museum of Zoology and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.School of Freshwater SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin - MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA

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