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Conservation Genetics of Remnant Coastal Brook Trout Populations at the Southern Limit of Their Distribution: Population Structure and Effects of Stocking

We examined genetic variation within and among a group of remnant coastal brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis populations along the coast of the northeastern United States. These populations occur at the southern limits of anadromy for this species and could form the foundation of a restored anadromous metapopulation. We also tested for genetic introgression between these populations and the hatchery source that has been used to stock these sites. The overall FST for the natural populations at 12 microsatellite loci was 0.145 (95% confidence interval, 0.108–0.183), and D was 0.225 (0.208–0.243). On average, 94.6% of individuals were correctly assigned to the population where they were collected. Our results suggest that there is little gene flow even between geographically proximate populations. We found little evidence that repeated historic stocking from a known hatchery source has led to genetic introgression into these wild coastal brook trout populations. One hybrid individual appeared to be a backcross between an F1 and a hatchery individual. Another hybrid individual could not be classified. Our results suggest that nonintrogressed and potentially locally adapted populations of brook trout persist in several small coastal New England streams. These populations should be the focus of future efforts to restore anadromous brook trout in this region.

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