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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Jan;46(1):167-82. Epub 2007 Jun 21.

Mitochondrial DNA phylogeography of the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in Europe-evidence for multiple glacial refugia.

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Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 65, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.


An analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence variation in 172 three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) sampled across the European distribution range revealed three major evolutionary lineages occupying relatively large and separate geographic areas. The trans-Atlantic lineage comprised of populations spanning from the East Coast of USA to the continental Europe and was basal group to the other European lineages in the phylogeny. The European lineage included populations located in the Western and Eastern Europe, British Isles, Scandinavia as well as some parts of the Mediterranean region. The third lineage was specific to the Black Sea drainages. The within lineage structure was characterized by significant excess of low frequency haplotypes and star-like mtDNA genealogies, which suggest a recent population expansions to the formerly glaciated marine and freshwater environments. A coalescent-based method dated the splits between the major lineages to have occurred during the Saalian and Weichselian glaciations in the late Pleistocene, depending on the molecular clock calibration. The coalescent simulations further indicate high degree of genetic diversity within the lineages and a substantial increase in the genetic diversity in the European lineage relative to the ancestral level. In addition to the three major lineages, the freshwater populations in R. Neretva and L. Skadar in the Adriatic Sea coast region harboured unique and highly divergent haplotypes suggesting long independent histories of these populations. Evidence from mtDNA analyses suggests that these populations deserve a status of an evolutionary significant unit.

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