The biological diversity of lake trout Salvelinus namaycush in the upper Great Lakes was historically high, consisting of many recognizable morphological types and discrete spawning populations. During the 1950s and 1960s, lake trout populations were extirpated from much of the Great Lakes primarily as a result of overfishing and predation by the parasitic sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus. Investigations of how genetic diversity is partitioned among remnant wild lake trout populations and hatchery broodstocks have been advocated to guide lake trout management and conservation planning. Using microsatellite genetic markers, we estimated measures of genetic diversity and the apportionment of genetic variance among 6 hatchery broodstocks and 10 wild populations representing three morphotypes (lean, humper, and siscowet). Analyses revealed that different hatchery broodstocks and wild populations contributed disproportionally to the total levels of genetic diversity. The genetic affinities of hatchery lake trout reflected the lake basins of origin of the wild source populations. The variance in allele frequency over all sampled extant wild populations was apportioned primarily on the basis of morphotype (??MT = 0.029) and secondarily among geographically dispersed populations within each morphotype (??ST = 0.024). The findings suggest that the genetic divergence reflected in recognized morphotypes and the associated ecological and physiological specialization occurred prior to the partitioning of large proglacial lakes into the Great Lakes or as a consequence of higher contemporary levels of gene flow within than among morphotypes. Information on the relative contributions of different broodstocks to total gene diversity within the regional hatchery program can be used to prioritize the broodstocks to be retained and to guide future stocking strategies. The findings highlight the importance of ecological and phenotypic diversity in Great Lakes fish communities and emphasize that the management of wild remnant lake trout populations and the restoration of extirpated populations should recognize and make greater use of the genetic diversity that still exists.
Additional publication details
Genetic diversity of wild and hatchery lake trout populations: Relevance for management and restoration in the Great Lakes