Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1345–1362 | Cite as

Two decades of genetic consistency in a reproductive population in the face of exploitation: patterns of adult and larval walleye (Sander vitreus) from Lake Erie’s Maumee River

  • Amanda E. Haponski
  • Carol A. Stepien
Research Article


Analyses of genetic variability and allelic composition in a species exhibiting reproductive fidelity to natal sites may provide important ecological indication of temporal population dynamics, facilitating understanding responses to past disturbances and future climate change. The walleye is an ecologically and economically valuable species, whose largest fishery centers in Lake Erie of the Laurentian Great Lakes; it exhibits reproductive site fidelity, despite otherwise wide-ranging dispersal. We tested whether genetic composition and diversity have remained temporally stable in Lake Erie’s Maumee River, which is the largest and most highly fished spawning run. This population has experienced over a century of exploitation, habitat alterations, and pollution, which may have affected genetic structure and might influence future sustainability. Fourteen nuclear DNA microsatellite loci were analyzed from 744 spawning run walleye to test genetic patterns across: (1) years (N = 12, spanning 1995–2013), (2) birth year cohorts, (3) the sexes, (4) those reproducing earlier (ages 2–6) versus later (7 or older) in life, and (5) the adults versus larvae. Results indicated stability in genetic diversity levels (mean H O = 0.76 ± 0.03) and allelic composition across years (F ST = 0.000–0.006, NS), cohorts (F ST = 0.000–0.013, NS), sexes (F ST = 0.000, NS), earlier versus later reproduction (F ST = 0.000, NS), and between the larvae and adults (F ST = 0.000–0.004, NS). Number of breeders and effective population size were substantial and consistent. This reproductive population thus has maintained genetic stability and high diversity, despite intensive anthropogenic pressures.


Lake Erie Maumee River Microsatellites Percidae Sander vitreus Walleye 



This is contribution 2016-03 from the Lake Erie Research Center. This research was supported by grant awards to CAS from NOAA Ohio Sea Grant Program #R/LR-13, USEPA CR-83281401-0, and NOAA #NA09OAR41718 (the latter’s PI was C. Mayer, with CAS and T. Bridgeman as coPIs). AEH was supported by an NSF GK-12 DGE#0742395 fellowship (CAS was the PI) and University of Toledo research and teaching assistantships. In addition, AEH received a Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research and International Association for Great Lakes Research and Norman S. Baldwin Fishery Science scholarships. We thank the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Sandusky Fish Research Unit, including: T. Hartman, M. Turner, J. Tyson, C. Vandergoot, and E. Weimer, along with University of Toledo’s M. DuFour, C. Mayer and J. Pritt, and M. Bagley for contributing samples. Great Lakes Genetics/Genomics Laboratory members K. Klymus and S. Yerga-Woolwine helped in the laboratory and made valuable comments on various drafts of the manuscript. We also thank R. Lohner for logistic support.

Supplementary material

10592_2016_866_MOESM1_ESM.docx (400 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 400 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Great Lakes Genetics/Genomics Laboratory, Lake Erie Center and Department of Environmental SciencesThe University of ToledoToledoUSA
  2. 2.Museum of Zoology and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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