A phylogeographic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences was performed in order to elucidate the origin, dispersal process, and genetic structure of white-spotted charr in the Lake Biwa water system. Two haplotypes were most common in the Lake Biwa water system, and were also common in the adjacent inlet rivers of the Sea of Japan. These results suggest that in the glacial periods of the Pleistocene, white-spotted charr dispersed into the northern inlet rivers of Lake Biwa from adjacent inlet rivers of the Sea of Japan by watershed exchanges, colonizing the whole of the Lake Biwa water system. Mitochondrial DNA diversity contrasted sharply between the western and eastern parts of the system, suggesting that the populations in the western part might be more reduced than those in the eastern part in relation to the smaller habitat size. The high overall FST estimate (0.50), together with pairwise comparisons of FST, indicated significant genetic divergence between populations due to isolation and small population size. Hierarchical analysis (AMOVA) also showed that genetic variation was more pronounced among regions (28.39%) and among populations within regions (47.24%) than within populations (24.37%). This suggests that each population in and around the Lake Biwa water system should be treated as a significant unit for conservation and management.
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