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Title: Conservation genetic assessment of the paleback darter, Etheostoma pallididorsum , a narrowly distributed endemic in the Ouachita Highlands, Arkansas, USA

The paleback darter,Etheostoma pallididorsum, is considered imperilled and has recently been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Previous allozyme‐based studies found evidence of a small effective population size, warranting conservation concern. The objective of this study was to assess the population dynamics and the phylogeographical history of the paleback darter, using a multilocus microsatellite approach and mitochondrial DNA.

The predictions of this study were that: paleback darter populations will exhibit low genetic diversity and minimal gene flow; population structure will correspond to the river systems from which the samples are derived; reservoir dams impounding the reaches between the Caddo and Ouachita rivers would serve as effective barriers to gene flow; and the Caddo and Ouachita rivers are reciprocally monophyletic.

Microsatellite DNA loci revealed significant structure among sampled localities (globalFst= 0.17,P< 0.001), with evidence of two distinct populations representing the Caddo and Ouachita rivers. However, Bayesian phylogeographical analyses resulted in three distinct clades: Caddo River, Ouachita River, and Mazarn Creek. Divergence from the most recent ancestor shared among the river drainages was estimated at 60 Kya. Population genetic diversity was relatively low (He= 0.65; mean alleles per locus,A= 6.26), but was comparable with the population genetic diversity found in the close relatives slackwater darter,Etheostoma boschungi(He= 0.65;A= 6.74), and Tuscumbia darter,Etheostoma tuscumbia(He= 0.57;A= 5.53).

These results have conservation implications for paleback darter populations and can be informative for other headwater specialist species. Like other headwater species with population structuring and relatively low genetic diversity, the persistence of paleback darter populations is likely to be tied to the persistence and connectivity of local breeding and non‐breeding habitat. These results do not raise conservation concern for a population decline; however, the restricted distribution and endemic status of the species still renders paleback darter populations vulnerable to extirpation or extinction.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1817-1830
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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