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Phylogeography of the bullhead Cottus gobio (Pisces : Teleostei : Cottidae) suggests a pre-Pleistocene origin of the major central European populations

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Englbrecht, C. C., Freyhof, J., Nolte, A., Rassmann, K., Schliewen, U., & Tautz, D. (2000). Phylogeography of the bullhead Cottus gobio (Pisces: Teleostei: Cottidae) suggests a pre-Pleistocene origin of the major central European populations. Molecular Ecology, 9(6), 709-722. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294x.2000.00912.x.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-0E8A-0
The bullhead Cottus gobio is a small, bottom-dwelling fish consisting of populations that have not been subject to transplantations or artificial stocking. It is therefore an ideal model species for studying the colonization history of central European freshwater systems, in particular with respect to the possible influences of the Pleistocene glaciation cycles. We sampled Cottus populations across most of its distribution range, with a special emphasis on southern Germany where the major European drainage systems are in closest contact. Mitochondrial d-loop sequencing of more than 400 specimens and phylogenetic network analysis allowed us to draw a detailed picture of the colonization of Europe by C. gobio. Moreover, the molecular distances between the haplotypes enabled us to infer an approximate time frame for the origin of the various populations. The founder population of C. gobio stems apparently from the Paratethys and invaded Europe in the Pliocene. From there, the first colonization into central Europe occurred via the ancient lower Danube, with a separate colonization of the eastern European territories. During the late Pliocene, one of the central European populations must have reached the North Sea in a second step after which it then started to colonize the Atlantic drainages via coastal lines. Accordingly, we found very distinct populations in the upper and lower Rhine, which can be explained by the fact that the lower Rhine was disconnected from the upper Rhine until approximate to 1 million years ago (Ma). More closely related, but still distinct, populations were found in the Elbe, the Main and the upper Danube, all presumably of Pleistocene origin. Intriguingly, they have largely maintained their population identity, despite the strong disturbance caused by the glaciation cycles in these areas. On the other hand, a mixing of populations during postglacial recolonization could be detected in the lower Rhine and its tributaries. However, the general pattern that emerges from our analysis suggests that the glaciation cycles did not have a major impact on the general population structure of C. gobio in central Europe.