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Genetic identity of Thamnophis sp. using microsatellite genetic markers

January 1, 2011

Butler’s gartersnake (Thamnophis butleri) was previously listed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a state threatened species. Several key questions associated with species identity, integrity, and hybridization with other gartersnake species needed to be addressed to further refi ne the management plan for this species. The objectives of this research were: 1) to determine if genetic markers developed in the initial phase of research could identify discrete genetic groups of Wisconsin gartersnakes, 2) to determine if any or all genetic groups delineated in objective one were consistent with Butler’s gartersnake, plains gartersnake (T. radix), and/or common gartersnake (T. sirtalis), and 3) to determine if any of the genetic data were consistent with hybridization occurring between gartersnakes in Wisconsin. Snakes were sampled from various Midwestern locations with a focus on sites in Wisconsin. All snakes were photo-vouchered, morphological landmarks were taken, and a tail snip was collected for genetic analysis. Genetic data from previously developed microsatellite markers discriminated three genetic groups from a composite 13-locus dataset (N=815) using the Bayesian admixture analysis in STRUCTURE v2.3.3. These units were highly consistent with species-groups based on the membership of a small number of known snakes from areas where the species are not thought to co-occur. Using a threshold q-value (proportional genotype) of ≥80%, 498 Butler’s gartersnakes, 93 plains gartersnakes, and 107 common gartersnakes were identifi ed in Wisconsin samples; putative hybrid snakes of Butler’s gartersnake x plain gartersnake (34), Butler’s gartersnake x common gartersnake (8), and a single ambiguous snake were also identifi ed in Wisconsin samples. Levels of divergence among the species groups from Wisconsin were lower than between species groups from other states consistent with either larger than expected Wisconsin population sizes or signifi cant gene fl ow (introgressive hybridization) having occurred among species. Regardless, levels of divergence and overall integrity of the three groups were such that the presence of three species of gartersnakes in Wisconsin was supported and hybridization, at a minimum between Butler’s gartersnakes and the two other species, was shown to occur.

Publication Year 2011
Title Genetic identity of Thamnophis sp. using microsatellite genetic markers
Authors Brian L. Sloss
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Title Wisconsin DNR Research Report
Index ID 70193781
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown