Historical-to-recent climate change and anthropogenic disturbance affect species distributions and genetic structure. The Rio Grande watershed of the United States and Mexico encompasses ecosystems that are intensively exploited, resulting in substantial degradation of aquatic habitats. While significant anthropogenic disturbances in the Rio Grande are recent, inhospitable conditions for freshwater organisms likely existed prior to such disturbances. A combination of anthropogenic and past climate factors may contribute to current distributions of aquatic fauna in the Rio Grande basin. We used mitochondrial DNA and 18 microsatellite loci to infer evolutionary history and genetic structure of an endangered freshwater mussel, Popenaias popeii, throughout the Rio Grande drainage. We estimated spatial connectivity and gene flow across extant populations of P. popeii and used ecological niche models (ENMs) and approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) to infer its evolutionary history during the Pleistocene. structure results recovered regional and local population clusters in the Rio Grande. ENMs predicted drastic reductions in suitable habitat during the last glacial maximum. ABC analyses suggested that regional population structure likely arose in this species during the mid-to-late Pleistocene and was followed by a late Pleistocene population bottleneck in New Mexico populations. The local population structure arose relatively recently, perhaps due to anthropogenic factors. Popenaias popeii, one of the few freshwater mussel species native to the Rio Grande basin, is a case study for understanding how both geological and anthropogenic factors shape current population genetic structure. Conservation strategies for this species should account for the fragmented nature of contemporary populations.
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