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Genetic variation in the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

January 1, 2000

The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) is an endangered Neotropical migrant that breeds in isolated remnants of dense riparian habitat in the southwestern United States. We estimated genetic variation at 20 breeding sites of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (290 individuals) using 38 amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs). Our results suggest that considerable genetic diversity exists within the subspecies and within local breeding sites. Statistical analyses of genetic variation revealed only slight, although significant, differentiation among breeding sites (Mantel's r = 0.0705, P < 0.0005; θ = 0.0816, 95% CI = 0.0608 to 0.1034; ΦST = 0.0458, P < 0.001). UPGMA cluster analysis of the AFLP markers indicates that extensive gene flow has occurred among breeding sites. No one site stood out as being genetically unique or isolated. Therefore, the small level of genetic structure that we detected may not be biologically significant. Ongoing field studies are consistent with this conclusion. Of the banded birds that were resighted or recaptured in Arizona during the 1996 to 1998 breeding seasons, one-third moved between breeding sites and two-thirds were philopatric. Low differentiation may be the result of historically high rangewide diversity followed by recent geographic isolation of breeding sites, although observational data indicate that gene flow is a current phenomenon. Our data suggest that breeding groups of E. t. extimus act as a metapopulation.

Publication Year 2000
Title Genetic variation in the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
DOI 10.1642/0004-8038(2000)117[0586:GVITES]2.0.CO;2
Authors Joseph Busch, Mark P. Miller, E. H. Paxton, M. K. Sogge, Paul Keim
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Auk
Index ID 1016031
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center