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Ephemeral stream reaches preserve the evolutionary and distributional history of threespine stickleback in the Santa Clara and Ventura River watersheds of southern California

Released: 2014
Citation:
Richmond, JQ, DK Jacobs, AR Backlin, CC Swift, C Delith, RN Fisher. 2014. Ephemeral stream reaches preserve the evolutionary and distributional history of threespine stickleback in the Santa Clara and Ventura River watersheds of southern California. Conservation Genetics 16(1): 85-101. doi: 10.1007/s10592-014-0643-7

Much remains to be understood about the evolutionary history and contemporary landscape genetics of unarmored threespine stickleback in southern California, where populations collectively referred to as Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni have severely declined over the past 70+ years and are now endangered. We used mitochondrial sequence and microsatellite data to assess the population genetics and phylogeography of unarmored populations sampled immediately downstream from the type locality of G. a. williamsoni in the upper Santa Clara River, and assessed their distinctiveness with respect to low-armor populations in the downstream sections of the river and the adjacent Ventura River. We also characterized the geographic limits of different plate morphs and evaluated the congruence of those boundaries with barriers to dispersal in both river systems and to neutral genetic variation. We show substantial population structuring within the upper reach of the Santa Clara River, but little partitioning between the lower Santa Clara and Ventura Rivers—we attribute these patterns to different ancestry between spatially subdivided populations within the same drainage, a predominance of downstream gene flow, and ability for coastal dispersal between the Santa Clara and Ventura Rivers. We also show that alleles from introduced low-plate stock have infiltrated a native population in at least one upper Santa Clara River tributary, causing this formerly unarmored population to become gradually low-plated over a 30 + year time period. Measures of genetic diversity, census surveys, and severe habitat disturbance all indicate that unarmored stickleback near the type locality are currently at high risk of extinction.


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