A comparative study of life history and gene flow in darters (Pisces: Percidae)

Thomas Fredrick Turner, Florida International University


Gene flow, or the exchange of genes between populations, is important because it determines the evolutionary trajectory of a species, including the relative influences of genetic drift and natural selection in the process of population differentiation. Gene flow differs among species because of variation in dispersal capability and abundances across taxa, and historical forces related to geological or lineage history. Both history and ecology influence gene flow in potentially complicated ways, and accounting for their effects remains an important problem in evolutionary biology. This research is a comparative study of gene flow and life-history in a monophyletic group of stream fishes, the darters. As a first step in disentangling historical and ecological effects, I reconstructed the phylogenetic relationships of the study species from nucleotide sequences in the mtDNA control region. I then used this phylogeny and regional glaciation history to infer historical effects on life-history evolution and gene flow in 15 species of darters. Gene flow was estimated indirectly, using information from 20 resolvable and polymorphic allozyme loci. When I accounted for historical effects, comparisons across taxa revealed that gene flow rates were closely associated with differences in clutch sizes and reproductive investment patterns. I hypothesized that differences in larval dispersal among taxa explained this relationship. Results from a field study of larval drift were consistent with this hypothesis. Finally, I asked whether there was an interaction between species' ecology and genetic differentiation across biogeographically distinct regions. Information from allozymes and mtDNA sequences revealed that life history plays an important role in the magnitude of species divergence across biogeographic boundaries. These results suggested an important association between life histories and rates of speciation following an allopatric isolation event. This research, along with other studies from the literature, further illustrates the enormous potential of North American freshwater fishes as a system for studying speciation processes.

Subject Area

Genetics|Ecology|Molecular biology|Zoology

Recommended Citation

Turner, Thomas Fredrick, "A comparative study of life history and gene flow in darters (Pisces: Percidae)" (1996). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9713039.