Extensive Dispersal of Endangered Roanoke Logperch Inferred Using Genetic Marker Data
The dispersal ecology of most stream fishes is poorly characterised, complicating conservation efforts for these species. We used microsatellite DNA marker data to characterise dispersal patterns and effective population size (Ne) for a population of Roanoke logperch Percina rex, an endangered darter (Percidae). Juveniles and candidate parents were sampled for 2 years at sites throughout the Roanoke River watershed. Dispersal was inferred via genetic assignment tests (ATs), pedigree reconstruction (PR) and estimation of lifetime dispersal distance under a genetic isolation‐by‐distance model. Estimates of Ne varied from 105 to 1218 individuals, depending on the estimation method. Based on PR, polygamy was frequent in parents of both sexes, with individuals spawning with an average of 2.4 mates. The sample contained 61 half‐sibling pairs, but only one parent–offspring pair and no full‐sib pairs, which limited our ability to discriminate natal dispersal of juveniles from breeding dispersal of their parents between spawning events. Nonetheless, all methods indicated extensive dispersal. The AT indicated unrestricted dispersal among sites ≤15 km apart, while siblings inferred by the PR were captured an average of 14 km and up to 55 km apart. Model‐based estimates of median lifetime dispersal distance (6–24 km, depending on assumptions) bracketed AT and PR estimates, indicating that widely dispersed individuals do, on average, contribute to gene flow. Extensive dispersal of P. rex suggests that darters and other small benthic stream fishes may be unexpectedly mobile. Monitoring and management activities for such populations should encompass entire watersheds to fully capture population dynamics.