Gene flow between coexisting or nearby populations normally prevents genetic divergence and local adaptation. Despite this, there are an increasing number of reports of sympatric sister taxa, indicating potential divergence and speciation in the face of gene flow. A large number of such reported cases involve lake-dwelling fish, which are expected to run into few physical barriers to dispersal within their aquatic habitat. However, such cases may not necessarily reflect sympatric speciation if cryptic dispersal barriers are common in lakes and other aquatic systems. In this study, we examined genetic differentiation in perch (Perca fluviatilis L.) from nine locations in a single, small lake (24 km2), using microsatellites. We detected significant genetic differentiation in all but two pairwise comparisons. These patterns were not consistent with divergence by distance or the existence of kin groups. Instead, they suggest that cryptic barriers to dispersal exist within the lake, allowing small-scale genetic divergence. Such an observation suggests that allopatric (or parapatric) divergence may be possible, even in small, apparently homogenous environments such as lakes. This has important consequences for how we currently view evidence from nature for sympatric speciation.
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Vol. 61 • No. 8