Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences were used to assess the matriarchal genetic structure of the threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. A 747 base-pair (bp) fragment of the cytochrome b was sequenced from 36 individuals collected from 25 localities in Europe, North America, and Japan. Two major divergent clades were revealed: one widespread in Japan but with representatives in some Alaskan and British Columbian lakes and the other common in Europe and North America. A simple diagnostic test using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and a restriction enzyme was used to assay additional individuals, confirming the absence of the Japanese clade in the Atlantic basin. Geographic distribution of mtDNA variation suggests (1) a recent origin of the Atlantic populations, and (2) support for previous hypotheses about the existence of Pleistocene refugia for freshwater fishes in Alaska and British Columbia. Silent substitution rates were used to date the colonization of the Atlantic at 90,000 to 260,000 yr before present, which conflicts with earlier dates implied by the fossil record. The recent replacement of Atlantic mitochondrial lineages suggested by our data may be explained by severe reduction or extinction of northern Atlantic populations during the Pleistocene, followed by a recent reinvasion from the Pacific. With a global perspective of the distribution of genetic variation as a framework, meaningful comparisons at a smaller geographical scale will now be possible.
Keywords: Biogeography; Gasterosteus aculeatus; Pleistocene refugia; cytochrome b; mitochondrial DNA sequences; molecular phylogeny; polymerase chain reaction; substitution rate.
© 1994 The Society for the Study of Evolution.