Bottlenecks can have lasting effects on genetic population structure that obscure patterns of contemporary gene flow and drift. Sockeye salmon are vulnerable to bottleneck effects because they are a highly structured species with excellent colonizing abilities and often occupy geologically young habitats. We describe genetic divergence among and genetic variation within spawning populations of sockeye salmon throughout the Lake Clark area of Alaska. Fin tissue was collected from sockeye salmon representing 15 spawning populations of Lake Clark, Six-mile Lake, and Lake Iliamna. Allele frequencies differed significantly at 11 microsatellite loci in 96 of 105 pairwise population comparisons. Pairwise estimates of FST ranged from zero to 0.089. Six-mile Lake and Lake Clark populations have historically been grouped together for management purposes and are geographically proximate. However, Six-mile Lake populations are genetically similar to Lake Iliamna populations and are divergent from Lake Clark populations. The reduced allelic diversity and strong divergence of Lake Clark populations relative to Six-mile Lake and Lake Iliamna populations suggest a bottleneck associated with the colonization of Lake Clark by sockeye salmon. Geographic distance and spawning habitat differences apparently do not contribute to isolation and divergence among populations. However, temporal isolation based on spawning time and founder effects associated with ongoing glacial retreat and colonization of new spawning habitats contribute to the genetic population structure of Lake Clark sock-eye salmon. Nonequilibrium conditions and the strong influence of genetic drift caution against using estimates of divergence to estimate gene flow among populations of Lake Clark sockeye salmon.
Additional publication details
Founding events influence genetic population structure of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in Lake Clark, Alaska