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Late Quaternary river drainage and fish evolution, Southland, New Zealand

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 00:48 authored by Craw, D, Christopher BurridgeChristopher Burridge, Anderson, L, Waters, JM
Late Quaternary to Holocene landscape evolution in southern New Zealand was dominated by glacial outwash processes. Evolution of the drainage network on a regional scale was punctuated by numerous river capture events associated with outwash transport and deposition. River capture events can be inferred from geological and topographic observations throughout the region. Independent evidence for river capture and drainage reorientation can be obtained from genetic studies of a freshwater-limited fish (Galaxias ‘southern’, informal name). Regionally extensive interlinking of principal rivers (Mataura, Oreti, Aparima) via coalescence of alluvial plains onshore, and offshore at sea level lowstands, has resulted in a widespread genetic homogenisation of fish populations (b 0.9% mtDNA divergence). Genetically similar populations of G. ‘southern’ are present in an adjacent catchment (Von) that was captured episodically by the neighbouring major river system (Clutha). The low degree of genetic divergence between Oreti and Von catchments (b 0.15% mtDNA divergence) demonstrates that genetic interaction between fish populations was severed recently, probably during the early Holocene. This is in accord with radiocarbon dating (11–13 ka) of the youngest gravel level within the intervening divide. In contrast, morphologically similar fish in another adjacent major river (Waiau) have a minimum mtDNA divergence of 2.4% from the fish in the Mataura, Oreti, and Aparima Rivers. This genetic separation occurred at ca. 145–240 ka, based on the late Quaternary outwash terrace dating, in agreement with “molecular clock” estimates. Geological and genetic data in combination provide powerful tools for the elucidation of local and regional geomorphic evolution where river capture is an important process. The potential is strong for genetic data alone to provide information on the relative and absolute timing of river capture events, but must be interpreted in the context of severance of water connections between catchments and subsequent isolation of freshwater-limited populations. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Publication title

Geomorphology: An International Journal of Pure and Applied Geomorphology










School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

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Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

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