Contemporary gene flow between "paired" silver (Ichthyomyzon unicuspis) and northern brook (I. fossor) lampreys: implications for conservation

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Conservation Genetics





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In most lamprey genera, "paired" species exist in which the larvae are morphologically similar or indistinguishable but, following metamorphosis, one species becomes parasitic while the other bypasses the adult feeding phase and rapidly becomes sexually mature. Since DNA barcoding and similar studies using short segments of the mitochondrial genome do not provide sufficient resolution to distinguish between recent divergence and a lack thereof, the current study examined the relationship between the parasitic silver lamprey (Ichthyomyzon unicuspis) and nonparasitic northern brook lamprey (I. fossor) using up to 10,230 bp from the mitochondrial genome to make phylogenetic inferences and mitochondrial restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and microsatellite markers to test for significant differences in allele frequencies. We found that silver and northern brook lampreys are not reciprocally monophyletic; two lineages were observed but each occurred within both species. There also were no significant range-wide differences in RFLP haplotype or microsatellite allele frequencies between the species, nor were there significant differences where they occurred sympatrically within the Lake Huron basin. Significant genetic differentiation was found only within the Lake Michigan basin where the results were potentially confounded by geographic separation. Our results thus support suggestions that silver and northern brook lampreys represent ecotypes of a single species since, where they are sympatric, they appear to be experiencing ongoing gene flow. However, alternative life history strategies can be important for a species' long-term persistence, and critical data are needed to decide whether these two feeding types should be managed as a single unit.


This is an accepted manuscript version of an article whose version of record was published in:Conservation Genetics: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10592-012-0332-3