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Genetic structure among greater white-fronted goose populations of the Pacific Flyway

April 4, 2017

An understanding of the genetic structure of populations in the wild is essential for long-term conservation and stewardship in the face of environmental change. Knowledge of the present-day distribution of genetic lineages (phylogeography) of a species is especially important for organisms that are exploited or utilize habitats that may be jeopardized by human intervention, including climate change. Here, we describe mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear genetic (microsatellite) diversity among three populations of a migratory bird, the greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), which breeds discontinuously in western and southwestern Alaska and winters in the Pacific Flyway of North America. Significant genetic structure was evident at both marker types. All three populations were differentiated for mtDNA, whereas microsatellite analysis only differentiated geese from the Cook Inlet Basin. In sexual reproducing species, nonrandom mate selection, when occurring in concert with fine-scale resource partitioning, can lead to phenotypic and genetic divergence as we observed in our study. If mate selection does not occur at the time of reproduction, which is not uncommon in long-lived organisms, then mechanisms influencing the true availability of potential mates may be obscured, and the degree of genetic and phenotypic diversity may appear incongruous with presumed patterns of gene flow. Previous investigations revealed population-specific behavioral, temporal, and spatial mechanisms that likely influence the amount of gene flow measured among greater white-fronted goose populations. The degree of observed genetic structuring aligns well with our current understanding of population differences pertaining to seasonal movements, social structure, pairing behavior, and resource partitioning.

Publication Year 2017
Title Genetic structure among greater white-fronted goose populations of the Pacific Flyway
DOI 10.1002/ece3.2934
Authors Craig R. Ely, Robert E. Wilson, Sandra L. Talbot
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70186298
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB