Independent evolutionary origins of landlocked alewife populations and rapid parallel evolution of phenotypic traits.

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Alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus, populations occur in two discrete life-history variants, an anadromous form and a landlocked (freshwater resident) form. Landlocked populations display a consistent pattern of life-history divergence from anadromous populations, including earlier age at maturity, smaller adult body size, and reduced fecundity. In Connecticut (USA), dams constructed on coastal streams separate anadromous spawning runs from lake-resident landlocked populations. Here, we used sequence data from the mtDNA control region and allele frequency data from five microsatellite loci to ask whether coastal Connecticut landlocked alewife populations are independently evolved from anadromous populations or whether they share a common freshwater ancestor. We then used microsatellite data to estimate the timing of the divergence between anadromous and landlocked populations. Finally, we examined anadromous and landlocked populations for divergence in foraging morphology and used divergence time estimates to calculate the rate of evolution for foraging traits. Our results indicate that landlocked populations have evolved multiple times independently. Tests of population divergence and estimates of gene flow show that landlocked populations are genetically isolated, whereas anadromous populations exchange genes. These results support a 'phylogenetic raceme' model of landlocked alewife divergence, with anadromous populations forming an ancestral core from which landlocked populations independently diverged. Divergence time estimates suggest that landlocked populations diverged from a common anadromous ancestor no longer than 5000 years ago and perhaps as recently as 300 years ago, depending on the microsatellite mutation rate assumed. Examination of foraging traits reveals landlocked populations to have significantly narrower gapes and smaller gill raker spacings than anadromous populations, suggesting that they are adapted to foraging on smaller prey items. Estimates of evolutionary rates (in haldanes) indicate rapid evolution of foraging traits, possibly in response to changes in available resources.





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Palkovacs, EP, KB Dion, DM Post and A Caccone (2008). Independent evolutionary origins of landlocked alewife populations and rapid parallel evolution of phenotypic traits. Mol Ecol, 17(2). pp. 582–597. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03593.x Retrieved from

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