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Natural Resource Ecology and Management

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Published Version

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Conservation Genetics




The larvae of freshwater mussels in the order Unionoida are obligate parasites on fishes. Because adult mussels are infaunal and largely sessile, it is generally assumed that the majority of gene flow among mussel populations relies on the dispersal of larvae by their hosts. The objective of this study was to compare the genetic diversity and the degree of congruence between the population structures of two related freshwater mussels Leptodea leptodon and Leptodea fragilis and their fish host, Aplodinotus grunniens. Host specificity in parasites has been shown to result in greater congruence between the population structures of the two interacting species, and assessing the congruence of genetic structure of the endangered L. leptodon with its sister species L. fragilis and their sole host is an important step in understanding the impact of host dispersal on population structure. Analysis of microsatellite data indicated that despite its imperiled status, L. leptodon displayed greater genetic diversity than the more common L. fragilis. However, the population structures of all three species were incongruent even in the presence of substantial gene flow. Other factors such as habitat specificity may play a role in generating the differences in population structure observed. This study indicates that barriers to gene flow or lack of available host fish are not the cause of decline of the federally endangered L. leptodon, and suggests that alternative explanations should be considered.


This article is published as Chong, Jer Pin, and Kevin J. Roe. "A comparison of genetic diversity and population structure of the endangered scaleshell mussel (Leptodea leptodon), the fragile papershell (Leptodea fragilis) and their host-fish the freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)." Conservation Genetics (2017). doi: 10.1007/s10592-017-1015-x. Posted with permission.

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