Population genetic structure of endemic fish species facilitating their survival in changing environments—A case study on the genus Telestes in Croatia
Buj, I., Marcic, Z., Flauder, E., Šanda, R. andVukic, J.
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Abstract: The genus Telestes primarily comprises freshwater fish distributed mostly in the Mediterranean
area. Recent investigation of the evolutionary history of this genus revealed that it originated
in southern Europe, where the most ancient Telestes species are still present. The isolation of rivers in
the karstic region facilitated allopatric speciation, resulting in a high number of Telestes species and a
great portion of endemic species in freshwater systems of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most
of the endemic Telestes species have very small distribution areas, inhabiting a single river or a few
water bodies in a single karstic field, making them extremely vulnerable to anthropogenic changes.
In order to contribute to practical conservation of the endemic Telestes species through the design
of conservational measures that are likely to be the most effective in ensuring the future viability
and undisturbed evolutionary course of those species, we have investigated their population genetic
structure and estimated their viabilities. Population viability analyses were carried out based on
the current state of populations and their habitats, as well as recognized threats. Several scenarios
also included potential threats. Our results show that invasive species pose the biggest threat to the
future survival of the endemic Telestes species. Contrary to previous opinions that a reduced genetic
diversity is characteristic for small populations, high intraspecific genetic diversity was revealed
inside most of the investigated species, which might enable most of the populations to cope with
future changes and mitigate negative effects.
Keywords: effective population size; gene flow; genetic diversity; karstic watersheds; small population;