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Persistence of historical population structure in an endangered species despite near-complete biome conversion in California's San Joaquin Desert

May 19, 2017

Genomic responses to habitat conversion can be rapid, providing wildlife managers with time-limited opportunities to enact recovery efforts that use population connectivity information that reflects predisturbance landscapes. Despite near-complete biome conversion, such opportunities may still exist for the endemic fauna and flora of California's San Joaquin Desert, but comprehensive genetic data sets are lacking for nearly all species in the region. To fill this knowledge gap, we studied the rangewide population structure of the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard Gambelia sila, a San Joaquin Desert endemic, using restriction site-associated DNA (RAD), microsatellite and mtDNA data to test whether admixture patterns and estimates of effective migration surfaces (EEMS) can identify land areas with high population connectivity prior to the conversion of native xeric habitats. Clustering and phylogenetic analyses indicate a recent shared history between numerous isolated populations and EEMS reveals latent signals of corridors and barriers to gene flow over areas now replaced by agriculture and urbanization. Conflicting histories between the mtDNA and nuclear genomes are consistent with hybridization with the sister species G. wislizenii, raising important questions about where legal protection should end at the southern range limit of G. sila. Comparative analysis of different data sets also adds to a growing list of advantages in using RAD loci for genetic studies of rare species. We demonstrate how the results of this work can serve as an evolutionary guidance tool for managing endemic, arid-adapted taxa in one of the world's most compromised landscapes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Persistence of historical population structure in an endangered species despite near-complete biome conversion in California's San Joaquin Desert
DOI 10.1111/mec.14125
Authors Jonathan Q. Richmond, Dustin A. Wood, Michael F. Westphal, Amy G. Vandergast, Adam D. Leache, Lawrence Saslaw, H. Scott Butterfield, Robert N. Fisher
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Molecular Ecology
Series Number
Index ID 70187784
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center