Morphological and Genetic Variability of the Mass Whitefish Forms in Lake Onega


In Lake Onega, the whitefish Coregonus lavaretus has been shown to occur as a variety of forms. Medium- and sparsely-ranked whitefish are most abundant. Analysis of available data indicates that whitefish populations from Karelia’s large lakes display the maximum values of various genetic variability indices. This fact seems to be due to the history of the colonization of the lake by the discrete evolutionary whitefish lineages from various Late Quaternary habitats followed by their hybridization. A great variety of Onega whitefish haplotypes is probably related to the genetic heterogeneity of the whitefish who until recently had occurred as five ecological forms ranking as subspecies. The median network obtained suggests that many of the populations studied have become less abundant. The well-defined “star-like” network structure is characteristic of populations that passed through a narrow “bottleneck” in the near past and then expanded rapidly, as indicated by the abundance of rare haplotype varieties. It seems that the retreat of the Scandinavian glacier was not a momentary event but took a long time during which the populations formed were subjected to demographic transformations.

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