An understanding of the relative roles of historical and contemporary factors in structuring genetic variation is a fundamental, but understudied aspect of geographic variation. We examined geographic variation in microsatellite DNA allele frequencies in bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus, Salmonidae) to test hypotheses concerning the relative roles of postglacial dispersal (historical) and current landscape features (contemporary) in structuring genetic variability and population differentiation. Bull trout exhibit relatively low intrapopulation microsatellite variation (average of 1.9 alleles per locus, average He = 0.24), but high levels of interpopulation divergence (FST = 0.39). We found evidence of historical influences on microsatellite variation in the form of a decrease in the number of alleles and heterozygosities in populations on the periphery of the range relative to populations closer to putative glacial refugia. In addition, one region of British Columbia that was colonized later during deglaciation and by more indirect watershed connections showed less developed and more variable patterns of isolation by distance than a similar region colonized earlier and more directly from refugia. Current spatial and drainage interconnectedness among sites and the presence of migration barriers (falls and cascades) within individual streams were found to be important contemporary factors influencing historical patterns of genetic variability and interpopulation divergence. Our work illustrates the limited utility of equilibrium models to delineate population structure and patterns of genetic diversity in recently founded populations or those inhabiting highly heterogeneous environments, and it highlights the need for approaches incorporating a landscape context for population divergence. Substantial microsatellite DNA divergence among bull trout populations may also signal divergence in traits important to population persistence in specific environments.
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Vol. 57 • No. 2