Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Characterizing range-wide population divergence in an alpine-endemic bird: A comparison of genetic and genomic approaches

October 17, 2019

The delineation of intraspecific units that are evolutionarily and demographically distinct is an important step in the development of species-specific management plans. Neutral genetic variation has served as the primary data source for delineating “evolutionarily significant units,” but with recent advances in genomic technology, we now have an unprecedented ability to utilize information about neutral and adaptive variation across the entire genome. Here, we use traditional genetic markers (microsatellites) and a newer reduced-representation genomic approach (single nucleotide polymorphisms) to delineate distinct groups of white-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura), an alpine-obligate species that is distributed in naturally fragmented habitats from Alaska to New Mexico. Five subspecies of white-tailed ptarmigan are currently recognized but their distinctiveness has not been verified with molecular data. Based on analyses of 436 samples at 12 microsatellite loci and 95 samples at 14,866 single nucleotide polymorphism loci, we provide strong support for treating two subspecies as distinct intraspecific units—L. l. altipetens, found in Colorado and neighboring states; and L. l. saxatilis, found on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island—but our findings reveal more moderate patterns of divergence within the remainder of the species’ range. Results based on genetic and genomic datasets generally agreed with one another, indicating that in many cases microsatellite loci may be sufficient for describing major patterns of genetic structure across species’ ranges. This work will inform future conservation and management decisions for the white-tailed ptarmigan, a species that may be vulnerable to future changes in climate.

Publication Year 2019
Title Characterizing range-wide population divergence in an alpine-endemic bird: A comparison of genetic and genomic approaches
DOI 10.1007/s10592-018-1115-2
Authors Kathryn Langin, Cameron L. Aldridge, Jennifer A. Fike, Robert S. Cornman, Kathy M Martin, Greg T Wann, Amy E Seglund, Michael A Schroeder, David P Benson, Brad C. Fedy, Jessica R. Young, Scott D. Wilson, Don H Wolfe, Clait E. Braun, Sara J. Oyler-McCance
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Genetics
Index ID 70207162
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center