Phylogeographic analyses can yield valuable insights into the geographic and historical contexts of contact and hybridization between taxa. Two species of char (Salmonidae), Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) and bull trout (S. confluentus) have largely parapatric distributions in watersheds of northwestern North America. They are, however, sympatric in several localities and hybridization and some introgression occurs across a broad area of contact. We conducted a comparative phylogenetic analysis of Dolly Varden and bull trout to gain a historical perspective of hybridization between these species and to test for footprints of historical introgression. We resolved two major Dolly Varden mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) clades (with 1.4–2.2% sequence divergence between haplotypes) that had different geographical distributions. Clade N is distributed across most of the range of Dolly Varden, from southern British Columbia through to the Kuril Islands in Asia. Clade S had a much more limited distribution, from Washington state, at the southern limit of the Dolly Varden range, to the middle of Vancouver Island. The distribution and inferred ages of the mtDNA clades suggested that Dolly Varden survived the Wisconsinan glaciation in a previously unsuspected refuge south of the ice sheet, and that Dolly Varden and bull trout were probably in continuous contact over most of the last 100,000 years. When bull trout were included in the phylogenetic analysis, however, the mtDNA of neither species was monophyletic: Clade S Dolly Varden clustered within the bull trout mtDNA clade. This pattern was discordant with two nuclear phylogenies produced (growth hormone 2 and rRNA internal transcribed sequence 1), in which Dolly Varden and bull trout were reciprocally monophyletic. This discordance between mtDNA- and nDNA-based phylogenies indicates that historical introgression of bull trout mtDNA into Dolly Varden occurred. Percent sequence divergence within these introgressed Dolly Varden (clade S) was 0.2–0.6%, implying that the introgression occurred prior to the most recent glaciation. Our analysis and other evidence of contact between divergent lineages in northwestern North America strongly suggests that the area may be the site of previously unsuspected suture zones of aquatic biotas.
Corresponding Editor: S. Karl