Developing conservation strategies for migratory fishes requires an understanding of connectivity among populations. Neotropical rivers contain diverse and economically important assemblages of migratory fishes, but little is known about the population biology of most species. We examined the population structure of Prochilodus mariae, an abundant migratory fish species found in Venezuelan rivers that plays essential roles in both regional fisheries and ecosystem dynamics. By coupling otolith microchemistry and microsatellite genetic analyses, we were able to evaluate both natal origins of individual fish and genetic structure on a regional level. The chemistry of otolith cores inferred separate breeding grounds for four of six populations, with 75-85% of individuals from each river sharing a natal signature that is distinct from the other populations. In contrast, we detected no genetic structure, indicating that gene flow among these rivers prevents population differentiation. These disparate inferences underscore the complexity of conserving migratory species; otolith data suggest that ensuring fishery sustainability requires recognizing distinct breeding stocks, while gene flow reflects the importance of connectivity across the broader river network on an evolutionary time scale.We conclude that multiple methodological approaches may often be necessary to fully understand the spatial ecology and management needs of migratory fishes and, therefore, also influence local management practices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science