Three ecologically and morphologically distinct forms of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus L.) have been identified in Loch Rannoch, Scotland, whose evolutionary status and origins are incompletely understood. A study was made of restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLPs) detected variation in the D-loop, ND1 and cytochrome b regions of the mitochondrial genome, encompassing >3500 bp. Eight RFLP haplotypes were identified that clustered into three distinct clans based on restriction differences and into four clans based on sequence differences. Significant differences in RFLP frequencies were found among all morph groups. The pelagic morph was highly divergent from the two benthic forms, with the benthic forms having variants from only one genetic clan while the pelagic was dominated by a single variant from another clan. The relative divergence observed among benthic and pelagic forms is ~10 fold greater when nucleotide divergence among the haplotypes, as well as haplotype frequency differences, is taken into account. Sequence divergence between haplotypes in the two main clans is of a similar order to that between haplotypes in these clans and a charr from North America. In contrast, divergence among the two benthic morphs relates entirely to differences in haplotype frequencies. The study confirms the genetic distinctiveness of the pelagic and benthic forms as well as of the two benthic forms. It strongly supports previous evidence that the genetic divergence between the pelagic and benthic populations is allopatric in origin. Additionally, the results strongly suggest that the two benthic populations have undergone peripatric divergence through the sequential colonisation of the two basins by one lineage, followed by their spatial separation and reproductive isolation.
- Sympatric morphs