Genetic variation in populations of the endangered fish Ladigesocypris ghigii and its implications for conservation
1. The genetic variation of the endangered freshwater fish Ladigesocypris ghigii, endemic to the island of Rhodes (Greece), was investigated for nine populations, originating from seven different stream systems and a reservoir, both at the mtDNA and nuclear level, in order to suggest conservation actions. 2. Both restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of five segments of mitochondrial DNA (ND-5/6, COI and 12S-16S rRNA) amplified by polymerase chain reaction, and random amplified polymorphic DNA analysis, revealed extremely low levels of intra-population polymorphism. It is highly likely that the low intra-population variability is the result of successive bottleneck events evident in shrinkage and expansion of the populations year after year, which may have led to a complete loss of several genotypes and haplotypes, and an increased degree of inbreeding. 3. Inter-population genetic structuring was high, with fixation of haplotypes within six of the nine populations and fixation of alleles within populations originating from different waterbodies. It is probable that all haplotypes and/or alleles found were initially represented in all populations. However, because of the long time of isolation coupled with successive bottleneck and subsequent genetic drift, common mtDNA haplotypes and alleles among the populations may have become rare or extinct through stochastic lineage loss. 4. Although nucleotide divergence among haplotypes was very shallow, half of the haplotypes recorded (three of six), resulted from nucleotide changes on the 12S-16S rRNA segments, which are the most conserved part of the mitochondrial genome. This fact may indicate that the observed genetic variation did not necessarily result only from the retention of ancestral polymorphism, but may have arisen through mutation and complete lineage sorting over a relatively small number of generations, once the populations had become isolated from one another. 5. Our data suggest that two of the L. ghigii populations may be on independent evolutionary trajectories. Considering that each population appears so far well adapted within each site, all populations should be managed and conserved separately.