Mysis relicta has a circumpolar distribution. It is found throughout the northern latitudes (above 42°N) in the Great Lakes of North America; Green Lake, Trout Lake, and Lake Geneva in Wisconsin; the Finger Lakes of New York; a handful of Canadian shield lakes; Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia. Considered a relict (survivor) of the great glaciers of the Pleistocene Epoch (1.8 million years ago), its natural distribution has been increased by its introduction into continental waters as an addition to the forage base of sport fisheries.

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