Population divergence at small spatial scales : – theoretical and empirical investigations in perch

Sammanfattning: Genetically structured populations arise when gene flow between groups of individuals is hindered by geographical, behavioural or temporal barriers. The identification of such groups is important for understanding evolution and has large implications for conservation concern. The field of population subdivision has received a lot of interest throughout the years and gained empirical support from a number of species. However, very little is known about population structure at small spatial scales, especially in a highly mobile species such as fish. The main object for my thesis was to further investigate population differentiation, explicitly at small spatial scales in the Eurasian perch. My results show that in this species, genetic differentiation occurs, even at very small spatial scales, both within lakes and in the Baltic Sea. Additionally, the differentiation can be stable over years and thus have a large impact in the evolution of adaptation to different environments. I also found barriers to gene flow that overlapped with the largest change in spring temperature, suggesting a temporal difference in spawning. Morphological differences were found at these small scales as well which indicates that a difference in food resources might be an underlying cause of change. My thesis work shows that the aquatic environment might not be as homogenous as widely thought and that there could be barriers or adaptations to different environments that hinder the fish from genetic panmixia. Slight patterns of isolation by distance (IBD) were found in the Baltic Sea, implying that the distance (i.e. currents) effect the level of differentiation via drifting of larvae and/or small fish. However, I have also theoretically investigated the IBD model of and seen that it is no longer correct when differences in population sizes are introduced. The pattern of IBD can mean high levels of gene flow or no gene flow at all, solely dependent on population size differences and fluctuations. My thesis has resulted in new and important findings regarding the existence and cause of genetic differentiation at very small spatial scales and thus added new knowledge into the field of evolution and speciation. In addition, my results also give insights into the contemporary state of the Eurasian perch and future evolutionary potential.