Evolutionary distinctiveness and status of the endangered Lake Eacham rainbowfish (Melanotaenia eachamensis)

Zhu, DQ, Degnan, S and Moritz, C (1998) Evolutionary distinctiveness and status of the endangered Lake Eacham rainbowfish (Melanotaenia eachamensis). Conservation Biology, 12 1: 80-93. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1998.96330.x

Author Zhu, DQ
Degnan, S
Moritz, C
Title Evolutionary distinctiveness and status of the endangered Lake Eacham rainbowfish (Melanotaenia eachamensis)
Journal name Conservation Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0888-8892
Publication date 1998-01-01
Year available 1998
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1998.96330.x
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 12
Issue 1
Start page 80
End page 93
Total pages 14
Place of publication MALDEN
Language eng
Abstract The Lake Eacham rainbowfish (Melanotaenia eachamensis) was declared extinct in the wild in the late 1980s after it disappeared from its only known locality, an isolated crater lake in northeast Queensland. Doubts have been raised about whether this taxon is distinct from surrounding populations of the eastern rainbowfish (Melanotaenia splendida splendida). We examined the evolutionary distinctiveness of M. eachamensis, obtained from captive stocks, relative to M. s. splendida through analysis of variation in mtDNA sequences, nuclear microsatellites, and morphometric characters Captive M. eachamensis had mtDNAs that were highly divergent from those in most populations of M. s. splendida. A broader geographic survey using RFLPs revealed some populations initially identified as M. s. splendida, that carried eachamensis mtDNA, whereas some others had mixtures of eachamensis and splendida mtDNA. The presence of eachamensis-like mtDNA in these populations could in principle be due to (1) sorting of ancestral polymorphisms, (2) introgression of M. eachamensis mtDNA into M. s. splendida, or (3) incorrect species boundaries, such that some populations currently assigned to M. s. splendida are M. eachamensis or are mixtures of the two species. These alternatives hypotheses were evaluated through comparisons of four nuclear microsatellite loci and morphometrics and meristics. In analyses of both data sets, populations of M. s. splendida with eachamensis mtDNA were more similar to captive M. eachamensis than to M. s. splendida with splendida mtDNA, supporting hypothesis 3. These results are significant for the management of M. eachamensis in several respects. First the combined molecular and morphological evidence indicates that M. eachamensis is a distinct species and a discrete evolutionarily significant unit worthy of conservation effort. Second it appears that the species boundary between M. eachamensis and M. s. splendida has been misdiagnosed such that there are extant populations on the Atherton Tableland as well as areas where both forms coexist. Accordingly we suggest that M. eachamensis be listed as vulnerable, rather than critical (or extinct in the wild). Third, the discovery of extant but genetically divergent populations of M. eachamensis on the Atherton Tableland broadens the options for future reintroductions to Lake Eacham.
Keyword Biodiversity Conservation
Environmental Sciences
Restriction Data
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Biological Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 20 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Mon, 13 Aug 2007, 20:21:01 EST