Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Conservation implications of distinct genetic structuring in the endangered freshwater fish Nannoperca oxleyana (Percichthyidae)

James T. Knight A B D , Catherine J. Nock C , Martin S. Elphinstone C and Peter R. Baverstock C

A NSW Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 1, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia.

B School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.

C Centre for Animal Conservation Genetics, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(1) 34-44
Submitted: 30 January 2008  Accepted: 22 October 2008   Published: 29 January 2009


The maintenance of genetic diversity and gene flow in threatened species is a vital consideration for recovery programs. The endangered Oxleyan pygmy perch Nannoperca oxleyana has a fragmented distribution within coastal freshwater drainages of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, Australia. In the present study, mitochondrial DNA control region variation was used to assess genetic diversity and structure across the geographical range of this species. Haplotypic diversity was highest in a small NSW subcatchment south of Evans Head (h = 0.594) followed by Marcus Creek in Queensland (h = 0.475). Distinct genetic differentiation was evident among the Queensland localities and the NSW subcatchments, implying restricted gene flow between coastal river systems. One of the nine haplotypes detected was distributed over 83.4% of the species’ range, suggesting historical connectivity among the now fragmented populations. These patterns were concordant with eustatic changes associated with the last glacial maximum. High barrier sand dunes may also act as barriers to gene flow and dispersal between adjacent NSW subcatchments. Conservation efforts should focus on the preservation of genetic diversity by maintaining as many genetically differentiated populations as possible. The relatively diverse populations inhabiting the South Evans Head subcatchment and Marcus Creek require special management consideration.

Additional keywords: floodplain connectivity, fragmentation, genetic diversity, mitochondrial DNA, population structure, wallum.


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