Lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens, is one of twenty-five extant species of sturgeon; five of which reside in North America. Despite being a part of one of the most ancient lineages of modern vertebrates (Actinopterygii: Acipenseriformes) and having a vast geographic range, their populations are dwindling. Without knowing if these populations are genetically diverse or impoverished, it is difficult to determine how conservation efforts should be continued to help save the "dinosaur" fish species. The hypothesis of this study was that populations of lake sturgeon, residing throughout the Great Lakes Basin and their tributaries are genetically depauperate; few mitochondrial haplotypes are present either from recent range expansion (10-20k years) or recent over-exploitation and habitat loss (years). Using the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b locus, the genetic diversity of these sturgeon populations was determined. Three distinct haplotypes of lake sturgeon were detected within the forty-two samples of this study. These haplotypes were segregated to 1.) the St. Lawrence River (New York, U.S.A), 2.) the Mattagami River (Ontario, Canada) and 3.) all remaining areas sampled within the Great Lakes Basin (both the USA and Canada). Another individual haplotype was also discovered after the addition of four of eight GenBank samples into the initial dataset. All four haplotypes show strong correlation to one another in both parsimony and maximum likelihood analysis. The genetic diversity seen within the lake sturgeon in this study is comparable to that found in other members of the Acipenseridae. Despite the low overall genetic diversity observed by this study, it is believed that this information can be useful in determining how to more efficiently allocate resources (monetary or otherwise) for the conservation efforts of this species.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Sturgeons--Great Lakes Region (North America)--Genetics; Sturgeons--Geographical distribution; Mitochondrial DNA--Analysis

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Environmental Science (MS)


Larry J. Buckley

Advisor/Committee Member

John Waud

Advisor/Committee Member

Jim Haynes


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at QL638.A25 W43 2012


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