Variation in presumably neutral genetic markers can inform us about evolvability, historical effective population sizes and phylogeographic history of contemporary populations. We studied genetic variability in 15 microsatellite loci in six native landlocked Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) populations in northern Fennoscandia, where this species is considered near threatened. We discovered that all populations were genetically highly (mean FST ˜ 0.26) differentiated and isolated from each other. Evidence was found for historical, but not for recent population size bottlenecks. Estimates of contemporary effective population size (Ne) ranged from seven to 228 and were significantly correlated with those of historical Ne but not with lake size. A census size (NC) was estimated to be approximately 300 individuals in a pond (0.14 ha), which exhibited the smallest Ne (i.e. Ne/NC = 0.02). Genetic variability in this pond and a connected lake is severely reduced, and both genetic and empirical estimates of migration rates indicate a lack of gene flow between them. Hence, albeit currently thriving, some northern Fennoscandian populations appear to be vulnerable to further loss of genetic variability and are likely to have limited capacity to adapt if selection pressures change.
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Variation in age and size of mature nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) within and among 16 Fennoscandian populations were assessed using skeletochronology. The average age of individuals in a given population varied from 1.7 to 4.7 years. Fish from pond populations were on average older than those from lake and marine populations, and females tended to be older than males. Reproduction in marine and lake populations commenced typically at an age of two years, whereas that in ponds at an age of three years. The maximum life span of the fish varied from 3 to 7 years. Mean body size within and among populations increased with increasing age, but the habitat and population differences in body size persisted even after accounting for variation in population age (and sex) structure. Hence, the population differences in mean body size are not explainable by age differences alone. As such, much of the pronounced intraspecific variation in population age structure can be attributed to delayed maturation and extended longevity of the pond fish. The results are contrasted and discussed in the context of similar data from the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) occupying the same geographic area.
Evolutionary theory predicts that in metapopulations subject to rapid extinction-recolonization dynamics, natural selection should favour evolution of traits that enhance dispersal and recolonization ability. Metapopulations of field voles (Microtus agrestis) on islands in the Stockholm archipelago, Sweden, are characterized by frequent local extinction and recolonization of subpopulations. Here, we show that voles on the islands were larger and had longer feet than expected for their body size, compared with voles from the mainland; that body size and size-specific foot length increased with increasing geographical isolation and distance from mainland; and that the differences in body size and size-specific foot length were genetically based. These findings provide rare evidence for relatively recent (less than 1000 years) and rapid (corresponding to 100-250 darwins) evolution of traits facilitating dispersal and recolonization in island metapopulations.
Hybridization and convergent evolution are phenomena of broad interest in evolutionary biology, but their occurrence poses challenges for reconstructing evolutionary affinities among affected taxa. Sticklebacks in the genus Pungitius are a case in point: evolutionary relationships and taxonomic validity of different species and populations in this circumpolarly distributed species complex remain contentious due to convergent evolution of traits regarded as diagnostic in their taxonomy, and possibly also due to frequent hybridization among taxa. To clarify the evolutionary relationships among different Pungitius species and populations globally, as well as to study the prevalence and extent of introgression among recognized species, genomic data sets of both reference genome-anchored single nucleotide polymorphisms and de novo assembled RAD-tag loci were constructed with RAD-seq data. Both data sets yielded topologically identical and well-supported species trees. Incongruence between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA-based trees was found and suggested possibly frequent hybridization and mitogenome capture during the evolution of Pungitius sticklebacks. Further analyses revealed evidence for frequent nuclear genetic introgression among Pungitius species, although the estimated proportions of autosomal introgression were low. Apart from providing evidence for frequent hybridization, the results challenge earlier mitochondrial and morphology-based hypotheses regarding the number of species and their affinities in this genus: at least seven extant species can be recognized on the basis of genetic data. The results also shed new light on the biogeographical history of the Pungitius-complex, including suggestion of several trans-Arctic invasions of Europe from the Northern Pacific. The well-resolved phylogeny should facilitate the utility of this genus as a model system for future comparative evolutionary studies.
BACKGROUND: Sexual dimorphism in ecologically important traits is widespread, yet the differences in the genomic architecture between the two sexes are largely unexplored. We employed a genome-wide multilocus approach to examine the sexual differences in population subdivision, natural selection and linkage disequilibrium (LD) in a wild Siberian jay (Perisoreus infaustus) population, using genotypes at a total of 107 autosomal and Z-chromosomal microsatellites. RESULTS: Mean observed heterozygosity was significantly higher in females (HO = 0.567) than in males (HO = 0.532), and autosomal markers (HO = 0.561) were more variable than Z-chromosomal markers (HO = 0.512). Genetic differentiation (FST = 0.002, P
Novel physiological challenges in different environments can promote the evolution of divergent phenotypes, either through plastic or genetic changes. Environmental salinity serves as a key barrier to the distribution of nearly all aquatic organisms, and species diversification is likely to be enabled by adaptation to alternative osmotic environments. The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is a euryhaline species with populations found both in marine and freshwater environments. It has evolved both highly plastic and locally adapted phenotypes due to salinity-derived selection, but the physiological and genetic basis of adaptation to salinity is not fully understood. We integrated comparative cellular morphology of the kidney, a key organ for osmoregulation, and candidate gene expression to explore the underpinnings of evolved variation in osmotic plasticity within two populations of sticklebacks from distinct salinity zones in the Baltic Sea: the high salinity Kattegat, representative of the ancestral marine habitat; and the low salinity Bay of Bothnia. A common-garden experiment revealed that kidney morphology in the ancestral high-salinity population had a highly plastic response to salinity conditions whereas this plastic response was reduced in the low-salinity population. Candidate gene expression in kidney tissue revealed a similar pattern of population-specific differences, with a higher degree of plasticity in the native high-salinity population. Together these results suggest that renal cellular morphology has become canalized to low salinity, and that these structural differences may have functional implications for osmoregulation.