Parasite genotypes identify source populations of migratory fish more accurately than fish genotypes.
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DNA-based assignment of individuals to their population of origin has many applications such as mixed-stock analysis, identifying individuals from protected populations, and elucidating migration patterns. However, low genetic differentiation among populations will cause misassignments. Thus, an alternative means of determining an individual's population of origin is needed in cases where there is little or no neutral differentiation among source populations. Here, we test the hypothesis that parasite genotypes can be used to identify the origins of hosts more accurately than host genotypes. Using microsatellite markers from steelhead trout and their trematode parasites, we show that the odds of correct assignment are four times greater with the parasite's genotypes than with the host's genotypes. Our analyses show that this result is simply explained by the greater genetic structure among populations of the trematode parasite. Recent studies on the comparative genetic structure of other host and parasite species suggest that our results are not unusual or unique to the host-parasite system we studied. Thus, our work indicates that parasites will be useful for a wide range of applied and basic research that requires the assignment of individuals to source populations.
author list (cited authors)
Criscione, C. D., Cooper, B., & Blouin, M. S.