Comparative analysis of riverscape genetic structure in rare, threatened and common freshwater mussels

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Abstract

Freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) are highly imperiled with many species on the verge of local extirpation or global extinction. This study investigates patterns of genetic structure and diversity in six species of freshwater mussels in the central Great Lakes region of Ontario, Canada. These species vary in their conservation status (endangered to not considered at risk), life history strategy, and dispersal capabilities. Evidence of historical genetic connectivity within rivers was ubiquitous across species and may reflect dispersal abilities of host fish. There was little to no signature of recent disturbance events or bottlenecks, even in endangered species, likely as a function of mussel longevity and historical population sizes (i.e., insufficient time for genetic drift to be detectable). Genetic structure was largely at the watershed scale suggesting that population augmentation via translocation within rivers may be a useful conservation tool if needed, while minimizing genetic risks to recipient sites. Recent interest in population augmentation via translocation and propagation may rely on these results to inform management of unionids in the Great Lakes region.

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Galbraith, H. S., Zanatta, D. T., & Wilson, C. C. (2015). Comparative analysis of riverscape genetic structure in rare, threatened and common freshwater mussels. Conservation Genetics, 16(4), 845–857. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-015-0705-5

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